Warning: this review contains trigger warnings in the bottom which may be seen as spoilers.
Ahh, there is a book I can forgive for being sad, going to dark places, written by Jess Kidd herself. How can I explain how much I love Kidd’s way of seeing life and the world?
Himself is I think her darkest book, opening with a shocking, sad murder scene where a young mother is brutally killed while her infant is there. This happens in the 50s.
The infant returns to the town, Mulderigg years later, in the 70s, and with wide-legged jeans and incredibly good looks of him starts to question and investigate why his Mami left him. Like all Jess Kidd protagonists, Mahony sees the dead (makes me wonder if Kidd does see them herself too) The book also has a wonderful sense of humour; one character coming forward as “Miss Marple with balls” and interesting descriptions like, “frogs lining up like polite cinema-goers” (that totally cracked me up)
There is magic the way Jess Kidd tells, someone called her a wizard of words, which I agree wholeheartedly. Himself is her debut novel and although it is probably not loved by me as much as I loved The Hoarder and Things in Jars it is still a read that I will wrap inside my chest and carry with me forever. Unforgettable, dark, beautiful.
Some people seem to rave on Goodreads about the ending, but I loved it. This is a beautifully bleak novel and it’s the pleasure of reading it that counts, the way words work, the story flows, the feelings grow in you as a reader. I would highly recommend reading Jess Kidd. A fantastic voice in Irish literature.
TW: cruelty to animals, murder, abuse