Every now and then, I’ll pick up a book and it feels like I’ve gone to the movies instead of sinking into a book. Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier is one of the most cinematic stories I’ve read in a long time. From its opening scene of the two protagonists in a waiting room at a Spanish ferry terminal to their complicated backstory with drugs and get rich quick schemes, this book is an absorbing ride with some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read.
At first, Maurice and Charlie reminded me of a rougher version of Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot. Their elliptical discussion ranges from their objective (to find Maurice’s daughter Dilly), to their past, to their regrets, and to their thoughts about death. The two men have been partners in crime for years, running hash and heroin from North Africa to Ireland since the early 1990s. They are not men to mess with. So when they decide to track down Dilly, they are very good at leaning on people to get information out of them. (Maurice bites one of their informants at one point.)
At first, we don’t know why Dilly ran away. I got the impression that Dilly was following her bliss to Algiers. But as Maurice begins to reveal his increasingly tragic history, I was less and less surprised that Dilly cut ties and left Ireland. Maurice and his partner, Cynthia, were a mess—a dangerous mess. Dilly was an accident. She was neglected when her parents got lost in drug addiction. When Cynthia died (not a spoiler), there was nothing to keep her in Ireland. Maurice and Charlie, however, want to make amends.
Night Boat to Tangier is an incredible read. The dialogue is brilliant. The characters are beautifully drawn. And the story has so many layers that I kept falling deeper and deeper into it. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.