A Book Where Language is the Star: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

24 Dec

Night Boat to Tangier
I picked up Night Boat to Tangier after I saw it chosen on the New York Times list of the 10 Best Books of 2019. It’s a relatively small volume, and flipping through it, I saw a lot of white space and dialogue.

A quick read, I thought. I can’t remember which conversation caught my eye, but I was hooked.

The plot concerns two older Irish thugs, Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, who are waiting in a ferry terminal in Algeciras, Spain. They are expecting Maurice’s estranged daughter, Dilly, to pass through the terminal either coming or going on a boat to Tangier, Morocco.

The book hopscotches back and forth from the terminal waiting to fill-in of the backstory behind the lives of the two men and how they came to be waiting in the present moment.

Language is the star: gritty, salty (language), menacing, melancholic, lyrical and poetic.

Charlie and Maurice go a long way back, and use their own linguistic shorthand as they discuss friendship, aging, the nature of death, and more.

One strange plot coincidence didn’t ruin the book for me, but rather made me think about why the author included it. I still haven’t quite figured that out.

On the whole I enjoyed that language and the way the story was told, but this left me feeling a bit melancholic myself.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

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