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Pub Date 06 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 06 Apr 2023

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Luminous and devastating, a portrait of modern masculinity as shaped by class, by trauma, and by silence, but also by the courage to love and to survive

Sean's brother Anthony is a hard man. When they were kids their ma did her best to keep him out of trouble but you can't say anything to Anto. Sean was supposed to be different. He was supposed to leave and never come back.

But Sean does come back. Arriving home after university, he finds Anthony's drinking is worse than ever. Meanwhile the jobs in Belfast have vanished, Sean's degree isn't worth the paper it's written on and no one will give him the time of day. One night he loses control and assaults a stranger at a party, and everything is tipped into chaos.

Close to Home witnesses the aftermath of that night, as Sean attempts to make sense of who he has become, and to reckon with the relationships that have shaped him, for better and worse.

Drawing from his own experiences, Michael Magee examines the forces which keep young working class men in harm's way, in a debut novel which shines with intelligence and humanity on every page. Close to Home is an extraordinary work of fiction about deciding what kind of a man you want to be and finding your place in the scarred city you call home.

Luminous and devastating, a portrait of modern masculinity as shaped by class, by trauma, and by silence, but also by the courage to love and to survive

Sean's brother Anthony is a hard man. When they...

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ISBN 9780241582978
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 9 members

Featured Reviews

Michael Magee’s debut, Close to Home follows Sean from his squalid Belfast flat the night after a bender has seen him assault a guy at a party he’s gate-crashed, through his two hundred-hour-community service sentence.

Sean wakes up the morning after yet another spree with his flatmate Ryan. He and Ryan have known each other since they were children in working-class Twinbrook but while Ryan has stayed put, Sean left for three years at university in Liverpool, which is what saves him from prison. Things go from bad to worse as Sean loses his job, the flat is about to be repossessed and he’s forced to move in with his mother.

Magee’s novel follows a redemptive narrative arc as Sean tells us his story with deadpan humour beginning with the assault the details of which he can barely remember or admit to himself. He knows he needs to sort himself out but temptation is constant, jobs are few and the future looks hopeless. Always in the background is the legacy of the Troubles either in the form of murals on his grandma’s estate or in the damage done to those who went through it which has trickled down through generations. Bleak at times, it’s a novel which offers hope as Sean finds his way to the possibility of a future.

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This is a Belfast novel more specifically a west Belfast novel, and it’s clear the author knows the place intimately. It’s about Sean, who comes home from uni with an english lit degree to find there are no jobs. At all. His older brother Anthony goes on benders constantly & tries to rope him in all the time.

One night Sean punches a bloke at a party & faces an assault charge and it threatens to completely derail his life.

I loved this so much, it's such an intimate look at what it's like to be a young working class man trying to make a life in the shadow of the troubles. You can't help but root for Sean even when he's making questionable decisions.

Thanks to NetGalley and Hamish Hamilton for the opportunity to review this book!

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This was an incredibly emotional debut novel. It was devastating in parts through the characters representation of trauma (both familial and through the legacy of The Troubles) as well as the never-ending cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities – trying to escape this fate whilst clinging on to that small element of hope for a brighter future. The writing felt so real and filled with typical dark Belfast humour, with characters dealing with life in the best way that they could, even when it seemed like there was no hope for better days ahead.
I couldn’t put this book down and had it finished within the day. It will be hard to find a better book for me this year and I am excited to read more from this author. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this proof.

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