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Nobber Reviews

Nobber by Oisin Fagan


Oisin Fagan

4.13 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: JM Originals
Publisher: John Murray Press
Publication date: 23 Jul 2019
ISBN: 9781529389098

A wildly inventive and audacious debut novel from the author of Hostages

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
5 stars out of 5
9 Aug 2019

"a bloody and brilliant first novel"

Oisín Fagan’s first novel is a dark and bloody tale, well leavened with bone-dry humour, and with a dramatic climax that has about it the flavour of a Jacobean tragedy (or Kurosawa, for the more cinematically inclined). The medieval Ireland in which the book is set was a complicated and contending mix of native Irish, or Gaels; long-settled English, many of Norman origin; and more recent English settlers...Nobber is written in a heightened contemporary English that eschews the larding on of situating historical detail. Through precise, vivid language, both vertiginous and beautifully controlled, it creates a world as real, and unreal, as our own, which exists in a dark, deracinating dialogue with ours, now and as it might be in the future. 


4 stars out of 5
4 Aug 2019

"a grisly, gross-out slice of medieval life and death"

You could see Nobber as an anarchic snapshot of a society in flux, a warning about the seductions of demagoguery, or even a send-up of disaster capitalism; in an Irish context, the scene of Colca’s mother’s anguish at her son’s eventual fate can’t help echoing the kangaroo-court justice dealt out by paramilitaries. Yet the novel never feels like a vessel for anything so simple as a message; a grisly, gross-out slice of medieval life and death, it’s vigorously, writhingly itself, spilling out of any box you put it in.

4 stars out of 5
Houman Barekat
3 Aug 2019

"Oisín Fagan weaves weird medieval adventure in a unique genre with storytelling flair"

This is all tremendously good fun: if noir whimsy and highfalutin’ bawdiness are your thing, you will find a chortle-worthy moment on every couple of pages. Less hedonistic readers may be left scratching their heads in bemusement: what, they might very well ask, is the point of it? As a work of narrative fiction resembling a cross between a medieval picaresque, a children’s adventure story and one of the “historical” Carry On films, Nobber occupies the intersection of a Venn diagram nobody even knew existed. Fagan is a skilled storyteller with a rich command of language and rare comedic flair. One hopes he is able to put his considerable talents to more constructive use in future.

3 stars out of 5
James Walton
20 Jul 2019

"Amid a strange, dark tale come glimpses of a striking new talent"

Towards the end, the violence does reach a genuinely exciting climax. But even then, the effect is only to confirm what an ultimately frustrating novel Nobber is: one that gives us plenty of glimpses of Fagan’s literary talent, but also leaves us wishing he had found a more consistently satisfactory way of harnessing it.