I am always grateful when I get sent a free book to review. I consider it a dutiful honour each and every time.
However, it does sometimes present a dilemma, and in the case of Skintown I had to do something I really don’t like doing – abandon it.
Skintown is the first novel by Ciaran McMenamin, and has a really interesting backstory. Based on true events, Skintown follows the story of a character called Vinny, growing up in ’70s Ireland when the IRA were at their most terrifying.
Vinny is having a bad Saturday night. All he wanted was a Hawaiian burger from one of the choice joints on Chippie Street after a few pints. Just a few hours later, after a mindless act of kindness, Vinny finds himself wedged into the back seat of a shiny black Ford Fiesta, with two prime cuts of under-the-influence thuggery watching him from the front.
Perspective is everything in a divided town where a bottle is as likely to be filled with burning petrol as it is with beer. And there’s nothing that can shift perspective more the high adrenaline rush of an all-night rave and blissed-out sex, where all divisions dissolve along with inhibitions and most of your clothes. The morning after is going to hurt like hell.
Skintown is Vinny’s drink-and-drug-fuelled odyssey through fights, riots, fishing, ecstasy, sex and acid house. Bristling with a restless energy, this superb debut is a wild ride of a novel.
It definitely had a Trainspotting vibe to it, and I began feeling excited and optimistic about what was to come.
However, after getting just less than half way through I decided to give up. I can’t say exactly what it was that made me decide to stop reading, but the fact that I was beginning to ‘put off’ reading it was a very big clue that I wasn’t really enjoying it.
I don’t think the author did enough to make me invest in the story or the characters. As I said, I was nearly half way through, and I felt like nothing had happened and that nothing was going to happen.
There was no build-up, no ‘page-turning’ tension – and I just felt like I wasn’t getting the “restless energy” I had been made to expect.
Perhaps this one just wasn’t for me. And that’s okay. It has received really positive early praise elsewhere:
“A riot of a novel written with energy and verve…” – Irish Examiner
“Supercharged riot of a debut” – Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea
“Scurrilous, saucy, unputdownable” – Carlo Gebler
I will definitely come back to Skintown in the future – it may be that, in another setting, I read it differently and enjoy it more. Do you ever feel like sometimes you need to be in the right headspace for a book?
I won’t be giving this book a star rating, because I didn’t finish it. But I’d really like to hear from other people who have. Is it just me? Please leave your comments below.
(Also, am I bad blogger for writing this review? I didn’t know whether to attempt to be fair and honest, or whether to just ignore it and not do a review – thoughts would be appreciated.)