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The Abstainer

Narrated by: Patrick Moy
Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Summary

From the widely acclaimed author of The North Water comes an epic story of revenge and obsession set in 19th-century Manchester.

The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting revenge.

Manchester, 1867: Stephen Doyle, an Irish American veteran of the Civil War, arrives from New York with a thirst for blood. He has joined the Fenians, a secret society intent on ending British rule in Ireland by any means necessary. Head Constable James O'Connor has fled grief and drink in Dublin for a sober start in Manchester. His job is to discover and thwart the Fenians’ plans whatever they might be. When a long-lost nephew returns from America and arrives on O’Connor’s doorstep looking for work, he cannot foresee the way his fragile new life will be imperilled - and how his and Doyle's fates will be intertwined.

In this propulsive tale of the underground war for Irish independence, master storyteller Ian McGuire once again transports listeners to a time when blood begot blood. Moving from the dirt and uproar of industrial Manchester to the quiet hills of Pennsylvania, The Abstainer is a searing novel in which two men, haunted by their pasts and driven forward by the need for justice and retribution, must fight for life and legacy.

©2019 Ian McGuire (P)2020 Simon & Schuster UK

Critic reviews

"The Abstainer is truly terrific - a can't-put-down book. It's no less than a tight 'n spare 'n suspense-filled noir novel, masterfully set in 1860s Britain and America. And like all superb historical novels, it seems as modern and as contemporary as this morning." (Richard Ford)

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90%

Really enjoyed the book; right up to the penultimate chapter and then it just seemed to fade away.

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Mancunians, Fenians and Yanks

I was looking forward so much to Ian MGuire's next book following "The North Water". It was a hard act to follow being one of my favourite novels. While I enjoyed this book and finished it relatively quickly thanks to excellent narration by Patrick Moy there were a few things that detracted slightly. The next section may contain spoilers. Like his previous book there is a nasty, particularly cunning, psychopath but this time dressed up as a fanatic. The crucible that brings the bad man and good man together is the Irish struggle for independence rather than a whaling ship. The ending, although a different outcome, is very similar. Good and evil have their final reckoning following some events that felt contrived and somewhat implausible. I liked the way the ending was told through a third person witness, 8 years down the line. Ultimately, I could find no deep or hidden meaning in the story other than it was a journey filled with disappointment, despair and death. The characters were also not as memorable. The protagonist was a somewhat pathetic character who largely engineered his own downfall and his main enemy rather run of the mill as baddies go. Nothing like Drax from the first book who jumped off the page. Look forward to the next one.

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Interesting novel, disappointed by the performance

Set largely in Victorian Manchester, this is a stylish novel. And I am full of admiration for those appointed to read audiobooks - especially with regard to novels with many characters. This performer is good on the Irish accents (of which there are many, even in Manchester). Though I was struck by how many of Manchester’s Irish community - almost all of them with Fenian sympathies - sounded like Ulstermen. However the Manchester accents were pretty much uniformly nasal, thin and reedy. The Mancunians were pathetic sounding, as if the local police force was manned by the ancestors of Syd Lyttle and Don Estelle. Also, the district of Hulme is pronounced as in HEWme not HULLme. Similarly Broughton is pronounced as BRAWton, not BROWton. The general lack of feel for matters Mancunian hampered my enjoyment. But a good novel regardless, with a fine ending.