‘De Botton not only has a complete understanding of Proust’s life . . . but what is particularly charming about this small, readable book is its tongue-in-cheek benignity, its lightly held erudition and its generous way of lending itself to what is not only the greatest book of the century but also the darkest and the most eccentric.’ Edmund White, Observer
The Bad Mother's Handbook is the story of a year in the lives of Charlotte, Karen and Nan, none of whom can quite believe how things have turned out. Why is it all so difficult? Why do the most ridiculous mistakes have the most disastrous consequences? When are you too old to throw up in a flowerbed after too much vodka? When are you too young to be a mother? Both hilarious and wise, it is a clear-eyed look at motherhood - and childhood - in its many guises, from the moment the condom breaks to the moment you file for divorce or, more optimistically, from the moment you hear your baby's first cry to the moment you realize that there are as many sorts of mother as there are children, and that love sometimes is the most important thing of all.
Anna’s personal life is in crisis. Her marriage is struggling, and the disastrous affair she began as consolation has now become a millstone around her neck. The place where she feels most secure is the safe and ordered world of the classroom – until a new pupil arrives in her English group.
Kali is beautiful and bright, but also vulnerable. Anna tells herself that it’s only natural for a caring teacher to show concern for a troubled student, and believes their developing friendship can save them both. But when that friendship begins to tip over into something more intense, Anna finds her professional and domestic lives caught up together in a spiral that threatens to destroy everyone she ever cared about.
"When I was a young lad, twenty or thirty or forty years ago, I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent."
So speaks Francie Brady, the narrator and anti-hero of The Butcher Boy. When the story begins Francie is a bit of a scamp, full of curiosity and mischief. Then an unpleasant encounter with Mrs Nugent on the subject of her son's missing comic books propels Francie to the brink of madness, and beyond.
McCabe's depiction of small-town Irish life and of one boy's deterioration into madness and despair is, surprisingly, one of the most raucous, earthy and horrifically hilarious stories of all time. It's dark and gothic, funny and tragic, starring a child who retains the pathos of a grubby urchin even as he evolves into a monster.