Van has finished reading…The Good Son by Paul McVeigh

15 Apr

The Troubles. Everyone knows what that means – or at least everyone knows enough to know they’re not going to dig too deeply into what that means or how much they understand it. And the little joke between Mickey and his Ma – how perfectly it trivialises it. I don’t mean that disparagingly. You can’t fail to understand that for these characters life is the Troubles, that they’ve known nothing else. There’s so much context in that little joke. Would anyone not living at the heart of such a raw wound even risk the humour? How it frames the relationship between mother and son, too. The gentle affection that binds them, and the attentive edge of neediness in Mickey’s response. It’s a great opening. In just a couple of sentences we know exactly where we are.

Mickey’s the worst kind of ten-year-old you can imagine (if you’re a ten-year-old). He’s smart. He’s a bit of a dreamer. His best friend’s his little sister. He’s the kind of kid that makes adults smile indulgently. The kind of kid that gets called gay by all the other kids. Life is not easy for Mickey. Life is a series of challenges that Mickey needs to win. But he’s no flincher. It’s worth remembering that good is a relative term, and Mickey is prepared to do what it takes to win. And who’s to judge? Is it the method or the motive that’s more important, the steps along the way or the result? Isn’t it right to want to make someone happy?

Voice is a canny thing in writing – some say the hardest thing to define, and one of the hardest to get right. Some books you pick up and you’re right there with the main character from the first word. I wouldn’t pretend to make any claim about the authenticity of the diction and turns of phrase in The Good Son – it sounded fine to me, and Paul McVeigh is far better placed to know the difference. But I didn’t find it an easy voice, at least not at first. It took me a few pages to get into Mickey’s rhythm. If you find it the same I’d urge you to stick with it because the rewards are well worth it.

Given the setting, the characters and everything that happens this could have been a really grim tale. In certain lights I think it is a really grim tale. It’s definitely the kind of history that could cast a long shadow through a life. But Mickey is relentless. He’s buoyant and optimistic and, yes, good! And it’s precisely this that truly breaks the heart. For when it all kicks off at the end, as indeed it must, it’s Mickey’s mother who sticks in my mind just as much as Mickey himself. When she looks at his hands – it’s enough to bring a lump to the throat recalling it.

Try it. The Good Son is most definitely a Good Read. My thanks to Tabitha at Salt for the advanced copy.

The Good Son was published by Salt on 15th April 2015, ISBN:9781784630232

You can find Paul on twitter @paul_mc_veigh and on his website


2 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The Good Son by Paul McVeigh”


  1. Van’s top five reads in 2015 | vanisreading - 07/01/2016

    […] down to a top 3. When I’m ruling out Life After Life, The Girl In The Red Coat, Galina Petrovna, The Good Son and Where’d You Go, Bernadette you’ll know how hard it was to come to a final […]

  2. Van has finished reading… On Writing by A L Kennedy | vanisreading - 22/02/2017

    […] reminded me of Paul McVeigh and his fabulous novel, The Good Son. When I read it I heard a young Irish lad and his Irish family and friends in my head because all […]

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