There was no way on God’s green earth that, having finished Mr Flood’s Last Resort, I wasn’t going to read another Jess Kidd novel. Her writing is too weird and wonderful to be missed and so, I bought myself a copy of Himself. Oh my goodness, it was even better that the previous read! More surreal, more peculiar, more ghostly! I was in absolute heaven. There’s no denying that Kidd has a style and if you didn’t happen to enjoy Mr Flood’s Last Resort, then I would imagine that Himself isn’t for you. It relies heavily on the supernatural, but in a remarkably original way that is neither sinister nor scary.
After years spent in an orphanage, and then definitely up to no good, Mahony returns to the village of his birth. He’s restless and looking for answers; wanting to know who his mother was and how she ended up giving him away. He’s your quintessential bad boy, good looking, sexy as hell and liable to break your heart at a moment’s notice. He’s also a total dead ringer for his mother, which unsettles the inhabitants of Mulderrig. The village isn’t ready for Mahoney or the introspection he will bring, but Mahoney is ready for the fight and hopes to find the truth, no matter where it takes him.
This novel is both sad and funny. Mahoney’s story is a classic tale of an abandoned child, looking for knowledge that might well bring him no happiness. At the most fundamental level, Kidd spins a really good yarn, which has colorful characters in abundance. The problem, or as in my case joy, is that many of these characters are in fact ghosts, who are up to mischief wherever Mahoney looks. Kidd doesn’t shy away from some of the traditional elements of a ghost story, such as the little girl, Ida, who keeps appearing to Mahoney and leads him through the forest, but the majority of her ghostly characters are comedic. For example, Mrs Cauley who is Mahoney’s close friend and ally, is surrounded by an entourage of dead paramores and other ghosts, who will at times make you laugh out loud.
Himself is an odd story and in many ways a hard one to describe, although it’s premise is actually very simple; what happened to Mahoney’s mother? The thing is, with Jess Kidd, that nothing is straightforward or mundane. As with Mr Flood’s Last Resort, the plot is almost secondary to the charming and comic world in which the book is set, but that’s not to say that the ending won’t surprise you.