Saturday, June 18, 2011

Goosefoot, by Patrick McGinley

What an odd little tale! I read this book because I'd once read McGinley's most well known novel, Bogmail, and had enjoyed it (though not quite as much as the person who had recommended it to me), and had at some point picked up this one. It was an impulse to pull it off the shelf the other day and read it instead of something else I was meant to be attending to.

The story opens with Patricia Teeling at a crossroads in her life. She has just finished off an agricultural degree, which her very simpatico Uncle Lar has done most of the funding for. Lar of course wants her to take over his very shipshape farm, but Patricia wants to try city life and sow some wild oats before she settles down, almost certainly for life. So she quickly finds a teaching job in Dublin, leaving the Irish midlands behind.

And there her troubles begin.

I have to say that I read this book almost completely wrong. I took it to be a rather convincing novel of a young woman's quest for her own authentic path, which includes finding a vocation and also a mate. The fact that all the men in her life are either very limited or very dicey--except for Uncle Lar, of course--and that having experienced the city she is no longer a country girl and still not yet an urban one--makes this path particularly difficult.

Actually, though, this is a crime novel. Though no one in the book seems particularly avid to solve the crime, this is still the case, and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that McGinley never loses sight of the fact, even if we do. I see in the Wikipedia article that he is an admirer of Flann O'Brien, and this I think explains a lot about his approach. The same article links to a New York Times book review of the book when it came out, and although I think it's the kind of review that gives too much away, it's definitely worth reading afterwards.

And it also makes the book worth reading again after you come to the end.


  1. The story sounds interesting, but is it a GOOD crime story? Because if not, I may be disappointed despite the setting and the promising cover.

  2. As someone who doesn't read much crime fiction, it's probably perfect for me.

  3. Dorte, I think it is actually a very good crime story, just not a typical one.

    Kathleen, yes, there is a lot in it for the not criminally minded as well.