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Himself by Jess Kidd - discussion questions

Himself is a genre-bending crime story set in County Mayo in the 1970s.

Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage, Mahony, a lovable car thief and Dublin charmer, returns to the town of his birth after an anonymous message suggests that his mother was taken from him. With the suggestion of foul play involved Mahony turns up to case the village but his familiar looks and outsider ways cause a stir amongst the locals, who receive him with a mixture of awe (the women) and suspicion (the pious).

When Mahony meets anarchist and ancient actress Mrs Cauley his identity is revealed, as is the extent of his mother’s unpopularity as a young unmarried mother. Mrs Cauley suspects murder. Together, this improbable duo concoct a slick plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters (living and dead). Their investigation summons the wrath of Father Quinn and the Widow Farelly, provokes letter bombs and poisoned scones, and culminates in a riotous production of Synge’s greatest play.

Himself is a simmering mixture – a blend of the natural and the supernatural, folklore and mystery, along with a good dose of Irish humour. It is, in turn, thrilling and gentle, anarchic and nostalgic, lyrical and violent. The result: a blackly comic crime story in the tradition of the Irish trickster tale, with a twisted plot, small-town secrets and a glimpse of an Ireland you’ve never seen before.

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