Young Adult

Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry | Review | Booksmagick

What’s it about?

Two Irish gangsters at the port of Algeciras. Neither of them speak Spanish very well. They’re waiting for a night boat to or from Tangier. A girl is supposed to get either on or off. A young girl. About twenty-three years old. The men are waiting for her. One of them is her father.

What I think about it

Click image to be redirected to publisher

That’s it. That’s the synopsis of this utterly weird book; I tried my best to give you a feeling of the staccato writing style.

Charlie and Maurice reminisce about the past and the present while they wait for the night boat to or from Tangier. Every time a boat arrives they question young folk about Dilly, the young girl they are waiting for. At first, the reader is kept in the dark about their motives, but with each memory that takes us back in time, we get another jigsaw piece and the story slowly begins to unfold before our eyes.

Unfortunately, this book was not for me. First off, the writing style put me off as I’m not a fan of short bursts of text and dialogue. If there had been traditional dialogue I probably wouldn’t have had such a hard time assigning pieces of dialogue or thoughts to the characters. Experimental literature may appeal to a some readers but it’s not my cup of tea – call me old-fashioned, but I need quotation marks.

The story itself did nothing for me and I was unable to immerse myself in it – the characters were odd to a point where I was questioning their sanity. Granted, the book explores the abyss that is both of the characters’ minds and the darkness within which is a reflection of the lives they’ve led up until now. Drugs, sex, violence – these topics are strongly present in Barry’s novel as he tells us about Maurice and Charlie.

‘Maurice crawls on his fours across the floor and pants like a dog at the girl’s feet.’


The plot flows gently from one scene to the other with bursts of sex and violence strewn in, but to me, there was no crescendo. Maybe I’m too young to understand the deeper meaning behind the story and there sure are reasons why this novel made it onto the longlist of the Booker Prize 2019, but I can’t see them.


Not for me, I didn’t like neither the characters nor the plot nor the flashbacks nor the writing style. I had difficulties with the experimental dialogues that had no quotation mark and was generally just annoyed with this book.


  • Author: Kevin Barry
  • Pages: 214
  • Publisher: Canongate
  • Release Date: June 20, 2019
  • ISBN: 978-1-78211-617-2

1 thought on “Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry | Review | Booksmagick”

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