Cover Image: Wild Houses

Wild Houses

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Member Reviews

I am so in love with Irish literature, and this book hit the spot for me.

One of the Globe and Mail's most anticipated books of 2024, this debut novel by Irish Canadian author Colin Barrett showcases how the lives of residents overlap in a small Irish town as a feud erupts and a young man is kidnapped and held for ransom.

This was my first dive into Barrett's writing, and I now understand why I've heard such praise.

I loved how Barrett captured the essence of small-town life, portraying its slow pace, feelings of hopelessness, and the constraints of limited opportunities.

I also adored the reclusive, young Dev who is drawn into a kidnapping scheme, and Nicky, a seventeen-year-old girl trying to save her boyfriend and decide what she wants to do with life.

I saw that some people who like to see a sequel...and I could not agree more... because I want MORE from Dev and Nicky specifically. I loved them.

Definitely read this if you like quiet Irish literature. You can get your hands on it on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

4 ⭐️ for me.

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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC, I really enjoyed this book and hope it gets adapted to a movie.

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Wild Houses is a quiet novel of the quietly devastating sort. Its story is particular in its focus and scope: Ballina, west of Ireland, where a teenage boy, Doll, who's been kidnapped is brought to a house and held hostage for 3 days. The events of the story arrange themselves around the central rupture of this event, almost every character caught in its pull. There is Dev, the man whose house the boy is brought to; Nicky, the boy's girlfriend; Cillian, his older brother; Sheila, his mother. That the novel is so particular in its focus also drives home the nature of its setting: the ways its characters, even when they don't directly know each other, are inexorably bound up in each other's lives. What might be construed as a tight-knit community is figured here as less tight-knit and more stifling. As one character puts it: "it's fucked how quick it all twists together . . . when you go back a bit"--interconnectedness as liability.

Liability is a salient issue for a novel that, like Wild Houses, is very much concerned with violence. There's a tight rope that Barrett is able to walk so deftly here: the way the story is both about violence that is exceptional--a boy kidnapped and held hostage--and quotidian, absorbed into the landscape and its rhythms. When everything "twists together" so quickly, when interconnectedness becomes a liability, then culpability and complicity become murky affairs. To act for someone becomes to act against someone else; but to not act at all is itself a kind of complicity that, in effect, accomplishes the same thing. That this violence takes place in the countryside is something to note, too. The countryside of Wild Houses is not one of idyll and serenity but of menace, the vastness of its landscapes a kind of blanket that, in its immensity, is able to at once absorb and eclipse violence.

Just as violence pervades Wild Houses, so, too, does loneliness--and it is such a poignant and heartbreaking novel in its depiction of that loneliness. Characters are bereaved, estranged, isolated; in a cruel way, it is the central event of the novel that brings them together. I was especially moved by the story of one of our two narrators, Dev. His loneliness and grief are so raw on the page, Barrett's portrayal of his mental health struggles, specifically his panic attacks, so keenly felt. There are some lines in the end of this novel that are just stunning in every sense of the word. They are exactly what I mean when I say this is a quietly devastating novel.

I've painted somewhat of a bleak picture of Wild Houses, but in Barrett's hands--in his fine, lucid, and wry writing--it's anything but. Barrett has definitely cemented himself as a new favourite author of mine and I can't wait to see more novels (and short story collections!) from him in the future.

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