Lovely to get reviewed in the Guardian, home of the tremendous cartoonist Steve Bell and my staple read for donkey’s years .
The Godly Coercion School for Young Boys of Meagre Means is a grimly repressive religious institution where young Dublin unfortunates endure soulless rote learning and routine beatings with stoicism, on pain of being dispatched to the industrial school, where conditions are even worse. Holohan has subversive fun with the ritual of the confessional: “I missed mass. I lied to my mother. I took the name of the Lord in vain and I let the parish priest put his mickey in my mouth”; and his debut novel comprehensively takes the mickey out of the priests, who are presented – with few exceptions – as venal, neurotic sadists. The plot revolves around a farcical attempt to have a roof collapse acknowledged as a miracle, when a broken statue of the school’s venerable founder appears to shed blood.
But there is fury behind Holohan’s satire, in which the school’s rotten foundations – “It stood up like a house of cards, held up only by bad workmanship and a kind of rigor mortis” – comes to symbolise the festering culture of corruption and abuse that passed for an Irish Catholic education for years.