Young Skins by Colin Barrett

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Young Skins by Colin Barrett

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: Focussing on the lives of young adults living in small town Ireland, Young Skins contains realistic tales written with great skill.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099597421

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We're taken into the lives of the youthful inhabitants of small town Ireland in seven short stories of differing styles but a shared setting. Barrett writes of a doorman at a suburban nightclub, known and respected by all the locals, although we only read about a brief affair and his vulnerability. Another tale portrays a young rocker and his emotional state, years after an incident that scarred him both physically and mentally and made him the talk of the town. Other tales all share the same focus on people and small but meaningful personal events in their lives.

The collection features incredibly simple themes and storylines but written in a way that is thoroughly absorbing, transports the reader to the scene and makes it really easy to empathise with and understand the protagonists. Colin Barrett writes with real style that makes the mundane and everyday events described seem so much more and in a couple of instances it reminded me of Hunter S Thompson but dealing with a far more reserved way of life. Sunday is the day of purgation and redress; of tenderised brain cases and see-sawing stomachs and hollow promises to never, ever get that twisted again is an example of the writing that really impressed me and the dialogue never fails to ring true helping to make the characters feel very real and believable.

Combined the stories paint a picture of sleepy towns where people live their whole lives and generation after generation live alongside one another forming a close knit community where everyone knows each other’s business; there is, however still room for secrets and intrigue and the stories are at times a little gritty. Although quite sedate there are attractions for the youth of the area and they know how to let their hair down, so despite the fact that many characters have aspirations that involve moving to the city they are generally quite content and in one tale the protagonist escaped to the rat race only to return to the quiet security offered by the small Irish town he had once been eager to leave.

This isn’t a thrilling or particularly eventful collection of tales but is instead captivating, genuine and heartfelt. That said the final couple of offerings do tackle slightly darker themes, are more eventful and detail a world of organised crime albeit on a small scale. These might appeal to certain readers and did inject a pace to the book that wasn’t previously there, but I personally found the more humdrum and homely stories preferable to the later ones as they possess a great deal of charm and realistic grit that is quite rare.

Barrett has written some thoughtful short stories for this collection and his style and grip of dialogue make them a really enjoyable foray into the world of some incredibly authentic feeling characters. I will certainly be looking for any future releases by this author who no doubt has a great novel in him just waiting to be realised.

For another stylishly written story by an incredibly talented Irish author I can’t recommend Red Sky In Morning by Paul Lynch highly enough.

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