By Michael Hughes
A vivid and brutal reimagining of Homer's Iliad, set in the Troubles of the late twentieth century.
That was the start of it. A terrible business altogether. Oh, it was all kept off the news, for the sake of the talks and the ceasefire. But them that were around that part of the country remember every bit.
Wait now till you hear the rest.
Northern Ireland, 1996.
After twenty-five years of conflict, the IRA and the British have agreed an uneasy ceasefire, as a first step towards lasting peace. But if decades of savage violence are leading only to smiles and handshakes, those on the ground in the border country will start to question what exactly they have been fighting for.
When an IRA man's wife turns informer, he and his brother gather their old comrades for an assault on the local army base. But the squad's feared sniper suddenly refuses to fight, and the SAS are sent in to crush this rogue terror cell before it can wreck the fragile truce, and drag the whole region back to the darkest days of the Troubles.
Inspired by the oldest war story of them all, this powerful new Irish novel explores the brutal glory of armed conflict, and the bitter tragedy of those on both sides who offer their lives to defend the honour of their country.
Michael Hughes grew up in Keady, Co. Armagh, and now lives in London. He attended St Patrick's Grammar School in Armagh and read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford before training in theatre at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. He has worked for many years as an actor under the professional name Michael Colgan, and he also teaches creative writing. His first novel, The Countenance Divine, was published by John Murray in 2016.
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- Publication date:
04 Apr 2019
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Country by Michael Hughes pulls the Iliad from Ancient Greece and drops it into the Irish borderlands, where a tale of pride, grudges and bloody vendettas plays out in prose that crackles with the vernacular of hard men, yet remains compulsively readable throughout. Both a retelling of a classic story, and a gritty contemporary thriller, this book is an extraordinary achievement — Stuart Neville
A re-telling of Homer's Iliad set in Northern Ireland; it's a gritty thriller complete with all the violence and beauty of Ancient Greece. This powerful novel is full of blistering writing that leaps off the page and is perhaps the first great fiction about The Troubles since Dermot Healy — Boundless
I couldn't put Country down. Tears through the pages at a cracking pace with sharp, smart prose and excellent dialogue — Paul McVeigh
A brutal and gripping thriller in its own right . . . Country is a complex saga filled with passionate arguments, vicious double crosses and eerie premonitions of death . . . a consistently engrossing read, written in Ulster-flavoured prose as rich and evocative as you would expect from a professional thespian — Irish Independent
Consistently thrilling . . . By enlisting the visceral power of The Iliad to illustrate the violence of the Troubles and using plain-spoken Irish voices that are appropriate to the period without losing a sense of the story's timelessness, Hughes has written a striking, memorable book — Literary Review
This is a hard, rigorous and necessary book which grinds out its beauty as the song cycles of empire and resistance fall silent, choked in their own blood — Irish Times
Part of the thrill is recognising the correspondences between the characters and Homer's originals . . . the language is enough to keep you enthralled . . . Hughes's achievement is to prove that Homer remains ignoble, messy and horribly familiar — Guardian
Daring, inventive and ambitious . . . The language is enough to keep you enthralled . . . a violent pounding demotic as memorable in its way as Homer's hexameter — Guardian