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  • John Murray

Country

Michael Hughes

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

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.

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Praise for Country

  • 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

  • Country is first and foremost a clever literary exercise. Happily, it also works well as a brutal and gripping thriller in its own right . . . 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 . . . Hughes has plenty of intelligent things to say about national identity and the process by which war slowly transforms decent human beings into savages. As a reminder of what tends to fill political vacuums in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, Country could hardly have been better timed - which is why every member of the suspended Stormont Assembly should add it to their summer reading list - Irish Independent

  • Hughes's inventiveness in creating Irish equivalents for the characters and plot moments of The Iliad is 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

  • With Homer's Illiad as the baseplate for this 1990s novel, Hughes reaches deep into the country and grasps something furious, elemental and dark...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

  • Incredibly original and illuminating . . . an absolute joy to read . . . Hughes' prose style is extraordinary . . . I really, really loved it - BBC Radio 4 Saturday Review

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