I am a rampant consumer of books scooping them up by the armload from sales tables in the big box book stores – established authors, first time novelists, Canadian and international writers.  But I have never read anything quite like Winterwood

Even as I read and re-read whole sections looking for clues, I couldn’t quite figure out how Patrick McCabe did it.  You know something terrible and brutal and bloody has happened, continues to happen and will happen again, but McCabe doesn’t ever show it to you.  He slips and slides all around it, sneaks up on it with incredible precision … real close.  He has you peaking through the tall pines and then yanks you back just when you’re ready to cover your eyes, leaving you to imagine the horrific scene that must come next. 

Uncomfortable throughout the entire read, I kept thinking,  just put the book down, walk away, then afraid to leave it and, worse, to turn the pages but unable to stop myself from doing so reading on with trepidation.  Is he going to show me now?  He never does.  The violence remains in shadow.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to open a chocolate bar again without thinking of the wild and wooly Auld Pappie, Ned Strange.

 “A reader is left confused, dazzled and breathless. It’s astonishing.”  Daniel Hahn

For an interesting perspective on the Patrick McCabe, playwright and novelist, I suggest Daniel Hahn.   Even though his critical perspective pre-dates the publication of Winterwood he elucidates McCabe’s style eloquently,  “It would be misleading … to give the impression that McCabe is in any way a miserable or depressing writer.  His world is prone to nastiness, certainly, and teetering on the edge of total, wild desperation, but it’s never hopelessly, lifelessly miserable.  On the contrary his writing bursts with life (as do his characters), with irrepressible wit and energy.  It is simply that the places he looks … are grim and unconventional … with a view of the most shocking and disturbing elements of human weakness and cruelty.  More often than not the result is a book which can appall, and yet with a personality which renders readers quite powerless to resist. At their best, these books are unstoppable.”

Photo: © Picador