!!> Read ➱ Country  ➵ Author Michael Hughes –
  • Hardcover
  • 320 pages
  • Country
  • Michael Hughes
  • 08 June 2019
  • 9780062940322

About the Author: Michael Hughes

Librarian Note There is than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Country Published To Ravishing Acclaim In The UK, A Fierce And Suspenseful Reimagining Of Homer S Iliad Set In Mid S Northern Ireland A Heart Pounding Tale Of Honor And Revenge That Explodes With Verbal Invention, Rapid Juxtaposition, Brutality And Fun Times Literary SupplementNorthern Ireland, After Twenty Five Years Of Vicious Conflict, The IRA And The British Have Agreed To An Uneasy Ceasefire As A First Step Towards Lasting Peace But, Faced With The Prospect That Decades Of Savage Violence And Loss Have Led Only To Smiles And Handshakes, Those On The Ground In The Border Country Question Whether It Really Is Time To Pull Back Or Quite The OppositeWhen An IRA Man S Wife Turns Informer, He And His Brother Gather Their Comrades For An Assault On The Local Army Base But Old Grudges Boil Over, And The Squad S Feared Sniper, Achill, Refuses To Risk His Life To Defend Another Man S Pride As The Gang Plots Without Him, The British SAS Are Sent To Crush The Rogue Terror Cell Before It Can Wreck The Fragile Truce And Drag The Region Back To The Darkest Days Of The Troubles Meanwhile, Achill S Young Prot G Grabs His Chance To Join The Fray In His Place Inspired By The Oldest War Story Of Them All, Michael Hughes S Virtuoso Novel Explores The Brutal Glory Of Armed Conflict, The Cost Of Ireland S Most Uncivil War, And The Bitter Tragedy Of Those On Both Sides Who Offer Their Lives To Defend The Dream Of Country

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10 thoughts on “Country

  1. Sandy says:

    Where was this book when I was in school Homer I had a rocky relationship by the time I graduated, we were barely on speaking terms With this retelling of The Iliad, Michael Hughes takes the legendary poet s themes characters plunks them down in 1996 Northern Ireland, just after the signing of the peace accord Like many great tales, it all begins with a woman Nellie is a young Catholic who is part of a new generation Tired of grinding poverty endless violence, they yearn for a life beyond the Troubles So when she s offered money to inform on her IRA husband his crew, she sees it as her ticket to a new life in London grabs it with both hands Think of her as a modern Helen which means her husband Brian Campbell is this version s Menelaus Brian is part of a group led by his brother Shane think Agamemnon follows him with unquestioning loyalty So when they learn Nell is a tout, they plot to blow up a nearby English army post in retaliation It s not just what they do, it s a matter of family pride But they ll need the help of sniper Liam Achill O Brien to guarantee success no points for recognizing him as our Achilles Liam is than a competent marksman He s a legend in these parts the mere whisper of his name is the stuff of nightmares for English soldiers He s been picking them off for years truth be told, he s getting a little tired of the whole damn mess If the peace accord holds, he ll be out of a job lately he s been thinking of returning home to the island of Achill Now he s being asked to continue the slaughter just to salvage a man s pride In alternate chapters we re introduced to Henry, an aging English combat veteran who has no time for the hopeful blather being spewed by politicians He embodies Homer s Hector, a soldier addicted to the glory of war at the expense of everyone else in his life His days on active duty are numbered taking out Liam would guarantee his legacy And so the stage is set It s inevitable there will be a mighty clash between these characters many others The contemporary setting makes this powerful story relatable N Ireland in particular is the perfect location to explore Homer s classic themes of honour, pride, fate, loyalty mortality Instead of dealing with the big picture, the author uses a small band of characters to represent the brutal effect of decades of war This narrow focus personalizes the Troubles, helping us understand how they ve inherited so much bitterness hatred It s clear from the start we re in for a bloody ending but much of the book is dialogue than action It s written in Irish vernacular although I found this difficult to understand at times my failing, not the author s it lends authenticity to the narrative It s written as if someone is telling you a story while you share a pint, a story about people who can t escape their circumstances or even imagine a different life For them fighting is like breathing as in the original tale, there are few winners here It s an engrossing read I can t help but think if I d had this version while in school I d have got a better grade.

  2. Rachel says:

    Country is the most literal Iliad retelling I ve ever read, which came as a surprise given that its premise is worlds away from Ancient Greece Michael Hughes s interpretation is set in 1990s Northern Ireland, twenty five years into the conflict known as the Troubles, and yet despite the wildly different setting it hits all the same beats as Homer s tale, each scene and character a perfect mirror to the original story, and easy to identify with names like Achill Achilles , Nellie Helen , Henry Hector , and Pat Patroclus.This level of faithfulness was a double edged sword for me it led to moments of brilliance and moments that were a little too on the nose Mostly brilliance, so let s start there the decision to adapt the Iliad to the Troubles was an inspired one, a pairing linked by the tragedy of lives lost needlessly to a cause whose rhetoric is shrouded in talk of honor, but whose reality is starker and senseless This passage in particular as the Hector figure, a war weary SAS man, is on the verge of death called to mind a passage from the Iliad that hits home its driving thematic conceit The fucking spooks, the fucking politicians Moving the pieces on the board, doling out life or death with a flick of the wrist Not one of them was in harm s way Not one of them could ever die this death He was charged to defend their will, their country s honour, but all he could ever defend was his own life It wasn t their blood on the road It never would be They didn t understand.No They understood They didn t care Michael Hughes, Country So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men live on to bear such torments the gods live free of sorrows Homer, The Iliad, translated by Robert FaglesUsed as a pawn by gods in one case and government and or paramilitary leaders in the other, the individual lives affected amidst the brutality are the focus of both texts, and Hughes capitalizes on the opportunity to tell this story with the abject tragedy it deserves.And overarching themes aside, the level of detail here is just delightful for Homer fans the SAS base is called Illiam because the W fell off the William Castle sign the IRA pub is referred to as The Ships in reference to the Greeks camp outside the walls of Troy.However, there were some bits that didn t translate perfectly Achill s widely accepted irreplaceability felt shoehorned in the role of the individual in modern day warfare just isn t perfectly equitable with ancient battle And a few scenes felt like they were only there in the name of keeping the structure as close to the Iliad as possible I wouldn t have minded, for example, the omission of a few scenes like the funeral games which went into a level of detail that was admirably authentic but frankly excessive in favor of adding a bit heft to the weightier scenes like Achill s confrontation with the Priam character I was very cognizant as I was reading that this wasn t going to be an easy book to recommend it s not, so to speak, baby s first Troubles book You don t exactly need a PhD in Irish History to be able to follow this, but I do want to be clear that almost none of the dialect which Hughes renders beautifully or cultural references are explained or contextualized read Say Nothing first I d actually stress that an interest in the Iliad is much less essential to get something out of this than knowing a bit about the Troubles Still, for the right reader this is a sharp and cleverly written retelling whose literality is an asset often than not Though it did strike me that I may, ironically, be a bit too familiar with the Iliad to be this book s ideal reader.

  3. Anna says:

    This is the second new Iliad retelling I ve read in recent months, the other being Pat Barker s The Silence of the Girls That kept the traditional setting and refocused the narrative on Briseis By contrast, Country transposes the action to the Irish border in 1996, yet keeps the narrative so close to Homer that it almost reads like a new translation As a result, I found myself enjoying it than The Silence of the Girls While Barker s novel is involving, it is perhaps of a re examination than a retelling That is not a criticism, as putting women s suffering into the foreground is a powerful and thought provoking literary endeavour Country , however, really captures the rhythms of Homer In translation, that is, as I don t know any ancient Greek From the opening lines, it tempts you to read aloud Fury Pure fury The blood was up Lost the head completely.Achill, the man from the west The best sniper the IRA ever seen All called him Achill, but his name was plain Liam O Brien After the da, Big Liam O Brien, who came out of Achill Island and bore the name before him So the son was called Achill in his turn, though he was born and reared in Castlebar and he d never set foot in the place, for the da always said it was a fearful hole.What was the start of it The whole wrecking match, that sent so many strong souls roaring down to hell, dogs chewing up the guts ground into the road, birds pecking at the splattered bits of their brains The way London wanted it to go The way it always is.Magnificent, no And Hughes sustains that all the way through The whole Iliad, with IRA men as Greeks, the British army as Trojans, and politicians as the divine pantheon who ultimately control events The role of Nellie, NI s very own Helen, is recounted in detail, yet ultimately this is a conflict over a country A conflict over pride and over stories, sustained through generations There may be cars and guns, but the emotional core of war appears unchanged over millennia A speech from Achill after the embassy tries to persuade him to return to war Listen now to what I m going to tell you.There are no pockets in a shroud Do you hear me You can be as rich as Croesus, and lose every red cent, or have it took off you, and you can always make it back again, if you re smart, or just go out and take it, if you re a hard man But once you lose your life, you can t get that back You hear me You can t get that back I ll say it one time You can t get that back.I ve always known that if I stayed with the Ra, sooner or later it would be the end of me I ve known it from the day I took the oath But I stuck with it, for I knew I d be remembered for what I d done I d be a legend for what I d done.But lately I ve had a bit of time to think, and now I can see there s another side to that story I don t have to stay I can go home, and live a long comfortable life Do you see what I m saying Nobody with know or care who the fuck I am, but I ll die of old age, the way a man should, surrounded by his family, and his wealth, in his own home place And right now, at this time of life, that suits me just fine.Death looks like glory to a young man Get a few years on you, and glory starts to look a lot like death.The whole novel is a stunning achievement, full of pathos and sly humour I was blown away by it The most meaningful modern twist on the Iliad that I ve found to date.

  4. Emma says:

    Such a striking retelling of the Iliad Review to come.

  5. Martin says:

    Absolutely brilliant This retelling of The Iliad brings home the timelessness of men and women in conflict I have several translations of The Iliad on my shelf, this will go next to them There are a few moments where it s a bit of a stretch to fit certain moments of Homer into Northern Ireland, but the author manages to pull them off Highly recommended.

  6. David Harris says:

    I ve started listening to audiobooks in the car on my commute to the station, and I think Country was an excellent choice to begin this Not only is the subject matter a reimagining of the Illiad set in the corner country Ireland towards the end of the Troubles fittingly oral, but in this version, read by the author, the story becomes luminous, immersive, beautiful even when dealing with very ugly events.Hughes has a rhythm, an air, that engages Listening to him is like sitting by a camp fire, or in a courtyard or marketplace or a chief s fort long ago, hearing the beginning of story, before it would ever have been written down Listen he says or Now we re getting to it or Wait till you hear Or the story veers off into a tale of the old days, of heroes and cruelties, or the life of some curious person tangential to the main narrative While I m sure this book reads well on the page, I think it s made to to be heard.The episodic nature helps with that I ve found before with audiobooks that there s a risk of losing concentration, missing something vital, and leaving the story half done Not here The effect is almost holographic, building up the lives of the IRA squad, its enemies in the British base and the people of the downland including spies, political bosses our friend, Mr Paul Bright , the shady higher ups who are often invoked but never appear in person and victims.The conflict in Ireland was seen is seen here in Britain as very polarised and indeed that is reflected here, with awful things done by one side to the other But the book also reflects another story a closeness, an interdependence, blind eyes turned by one faction to the goings on of the other, Republicans passing intel back to the Brits to settle scores, tacit deals to spare those higher ups from violence These are small communities where everyone knows everyone else, whichever side they re on Hughes draws a fascinating picture of this society, and layers it with references and analogies to the story of Troy, or the oldest tales of Ireland other societies where warfare was, at one level, heroic and we get the preposterous warrior boasts, the single combat, the looting of the dead, gifts of treasures, women and, above all perhaps, the drinking and feasting the latter conveyed through fry ups joyfully described and eaten in volume.I m at a disadvantage here because I have never read The Illiad don t me but even I can see some of the comparisons those higher ups , the names, the centrality of a vanished wife to the story They give it a point and a focus and demand attention Is Hughes really saying that nothing has changed in attitudes in three thousand years All the blood shed from the 1960s to the 1990s might suggest that Is this a good way to understand the men of violence we were nightly warned of on TV Their cause, rehearsed here, is familiar yet in this story it s overshadowed by the score settling of the older Troy story Is that fair I wasn t, in the end, sure whether the comparisons with Troy beyond the similarities in outlook I ve mentioned above helped Certainly, towards the end, there were parts of the story where what one might see as the need to stay close to the source, such as two combatants running three times around the walls, or close quarters fighting rather than the use of firearms over greater distances, seemed to constrain the story rather But in many other places Hughes happily throws overboard Homer s narrative even I can see that so I think this is still him telling the story he wants to tell, not just following his source.And if at times that makes the doings of these hard men, these soldiers, these heroes, look faintly ridiculous well, think about that Perhaps they were, both in the 20th century AD and the 10th BC.One thing Hughes does do here is to give some voice to the women Yes, many of the characters the volunteers in the squad, the SAS, the police and the Green Army are men but women play some key roles and most of all, the Helen figure, Nellie, plays an independent role, taking her own destiny in her hands, manipulating those who would use her and making the best she can of her circumstances She speaks, here, and what she says matters.All in all this is a startling, vivid and compelling story, very different from anything I d read recently I d strongly recommend.

  7. Anna says:

    So, this was extraordinary Using the story of the Iliad to frame the story of a Provisional IRA squad on the Irish border, 1996, served both stories so well It brought me in to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland while also giving a terrible sense of how it has always will always be The shadow of the higher ups, in Belfast and Dublin and London, calling the shots, moving chess pieces, intervening on whims, like Zeus and Athena and Aphrodite so chilling There were so many moments where I was just astounded at how well the Iliad translated to this context And there were other moments where I was aghast at the violence being described, so particular in many ways to the Northern Irish context, and yet that somehow made the Trojan war vivid to me too Intertextuality for the win, it was almost like reading both books at once

  8. Kelli says:

    Extraordinary retelling of the Iliad An adrenaline rush from start to finish, I could hardly put it down From the off, the language paints a vivid sense of time and place The characters are complicated and real and convey just how complex the Troubles were for all involved Highly recommended.

  9. Kris says:

    im just OBSESSED with the way this book is written

  10. Andrew says:

    996 on the border between Northern Ireland and the republic a band of IRA soldiers seethe over the forthcoming peace process , anticipated cease fire and political negotiations to end the struggle for a united Ireland This is the setting in which the author brilliantly places his characters as a retelling of the classic story of war, deception and male frailties , The Iliad.At the outset we meet Achill feared sniper Liam O Brien and Pig Shane Campbell, OC Officer commanding as they face the end of conflicts and a local protestant farmer begs Pig to return his daughter to him Forced into returning her Pig demands that Achill give him his girl and Achill vows never to fight for the group again.The ensuing story mirrors the plot of the Iliad as we encounter the remaining part of the cell including Pig s brother Dog, the violent Diamond McDaid, the seer Ned, and the pub The Ship which stretches across the border We also meet two women who play a pivotal role in the story including Nellie and the British army commander Henry and Achill s closest comrade Pat The names bear close resemblance to the protagonists in Homers tale of the Greek besieging of Troy.This is at times a tough read as it does not shy away from the brutality of war a scene of a knee capping was tough and the language is that of the ordinary soldier but it is incredibly told with insight into the conflict which overshadowed British and Irish history through the 20th century.It is also perhaps a timely retelling, when the border between Britain and Ireland remains such a fundamental part of todays history and underlies the complexity of a political situation which even now no sitting governing body in Belfast, Brexit looming in which trading and the border with the republic is at the heart , historic prosecutions of soldiers should be a reminder of how fragile a thread peace can hang by and the passions and effects of a civil war war of independence.This is definitely a book I d recommend both for readers interested in the Irish story but also lovers of the classic original.