Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe: A-

From the back cover:
With wonderful delicacy and subtle insight and intimation, McCabe creates Mr. Patrick “Puss” Braden, the enduringly and endearingly hopeful hero(ine) whose gutsy survival and yearning quest for love resonate in and drive the glimmering, agonizing narrative in which the Troubles are a distant and immediate echo and refrain.

Twenty years ago, her ladyship escaped her hometown of Tyreelin, Ireland, fleeing her foster mother Whiskers—prodigious Guinness-guzzler, human chimney—and her mad household, to begin a new life in London. There, in blousey tops and satin miniskirts, she plies her trade, often risking life and limb amongst the flotsam and jetsam that fill the bars of Piccadilly Circus. But suave businessmen and lonely old women are not the only dangers that threaten Puss. It is the 1970s and fear haunts the streets of London and Belfast as the critical mass of history builds up, and Puss is inevitably drawn into a maelstrom of violence and tragedy destined to blow his fragile soul asunder.

Note: Patrick’s nickname actually has a ‘y’ on the end. It’s been changed here to avoid getting lumped in with any naughty stuff filters my employer might have in their arsenal.

I listened to the unabridged audio of this, read by the author. I highly recommend it. In addition to wonderful Irish and English accents, who better to properly interpret the speech mannerisms of Puss, which are integral to this particular character? She mixes gleeful naughty bits (which I might’ve found gross were they not said with endearing silliness) with old-fashioned turns of phrase (ex: ‘When words with Charlie on the phone she did swap…’) to create a lilting, storytelling style.

Puss does quite a few dumb things in the course of the stories she relates, which she fully admits, but she’s so incredibly easy to sympathize with, it doesn’t get annoying. Mostly, it’s just relentlessly sad. I did find it a little hard to pinpoint a timeline for a while, since some elements are told out of sequence, but happily report that it’s clear by the end.

If you’re looking for a titillating book about cross-dressing, this isn’t it. It’s more about the search for warm family love and a place to belong than anything else. All the IRA stuff takes a definite back seat to this more basic concern.

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