...McNamee, in his seventh novel, The Vogue, explores familiar Ulster matters – hidden graves, war and dangerous faith – but from a fascinatingly unfamiliar angle... Many previous writers have taken advantage of the fact that the same character can hide on the page under two names, but McNamee has found a particularly ingenious, and thematically relevant, twist. Disparate times and locations also cohere through careful patterns of action and language... McNamee has a distinctive prose tone, its signature the omission, for purposes of staccato rhythm, of verbs... McNamee is more widely interested in hidden history, impressively addressing from a fresh perspective a country for which, in various ways, the question of where the bodies are buried is fundamental.
Revenants haunt Eoin McNamee’s The Vogue, a bleak but compelling study of historic crimes blighting the present, told in the author’s memorable, idiosyncratic prose. In 1944, a black GI stationed near a small town in Northern Ireland is falsely accused of raping the daughter of a local minister. In the early 1970s, a teenager in care is abused by those who have responsibility for her. Three decades later, a mysterious man pitches up in town, asking questions about a body that has been found in land that once formed part of a wartime airfield. Slowly, McNamee weaves together these three strands and the cruel connections between them are revealed.
... McNamee both conjures the braided ghost stories of the past and gestures towards many of their legacies, including the fate of unmarried mothers, institutional cruelty and the suppression of personal history... Everything is filmed, and yet nothing is seen; in the trial of Hooper, time and space itself has been falsified and remade. And if McNamee’s ultimate narrative purpose is to suggest that these secrets cannot hold for ever, he is thorough about it; by the conclusion of the novel, each character’s story has pivoted a little, shifted from its moorings. What remains, however, is the implacability of prejudice – the sense that both the racism endured by Hooper and the misogyny enacted on all the novel’s women must simply play out to a logical conclusion. Underscored by McNamee’s fragmentary, elliptical style, the result is fiction at its bleakest, but carrying with it significant force and fury.