My reviews have spoilers. I make no apologies.
In short – I hated it. The style was jarring at the beginning, and mellowed out but still messed around, mixing up third and first person perspectives – most of the third person writing was in the first 15-20% of the book, then it seemed to forget that it was trying that and kept swapping around. This was incredibly annoying.
The plot can be summed up as “An arsehole moves to England, where he gets everything his own way.” As far as I can tell, it’s about a guy who sponges from his friends and treats his wife and child atrociously, never pays rent, then when it appears he can’t live in Ireland anymore due to landlords chasing him, the wife (and the rent his parents were paying directly to her) disappearing to Scotland, he leaves for England. There, he meets up with some friends who treat him well, an old friend who has (gasp!) worked and treats him extremely well, and they set him back up with a woman he cheated on his wife with (one of three) who is working and willing to support him despite him beating her and treating her like crap.
So an arsehole moves to England, where everything comes up roses for him. He always gets forgiven, and no-one means it when they say “this is the last time…” – including the friend who is practically destitute every time he is bothered for a drink!
Our main character, for whom everything works out terrific, is a drunk, an adulterer and a wife-beater. His child is only mentioned a couple of times and he appears to take no notice of her at all. Although he has a bad life in Ireland, it is entirely of his own making – pawning household items to pay for drink, never fixing or paying for anything if he can help it, not studying as a lawyer (as he is supposed to be doing), and driving his friends out of the country.
I was much more interested in the characters who left our lead. The estranged wife who sided with the despicable man’s father to leave him penniless and move firstly across to the nice district of Dublin, then to Edinburgh. His lodger – a devout Catholic taken advantage of, who regretted every time she (apparently willingly) let him have his way, and most of all his best friend who left for France to both make some money and lose his virginity. It appears in his letters to our star that he is having more adventures, including passing himself off as a cook to gain employment in a noblewoman’s house in Ireland, leaving there and moving on once more (all without losing that darned virginity!). He’s not succeeding, and probably not any nicer a person than the main character, but certainly had more interesting adventures and seems like he would have been more entertaining.
Even, and this is a stretch – the young girl beaten by her father who he extorted money from to move to London, who joined him later, left him because he was wicked then came back – after successfully losing weight, getting a job in the film industry, making good money for herself and all so he would like her more would make an interesting character to follow. She’s able to take all his crap right at the end, yet stays with him and supports him!
I don’t like books with characters like this lead. I want them to get their just rewards. There’s no obstacle for him to overcome – or rather, there are obstacles, but he just drinks and slobs and walks away from them. He doesn’t achieve anything, he gets lucky at the end due to his friends and a woman and gets the life he was trying to live all along – no work, no responsibility.
The only thing that I am possibly not understanding about this book is it’s humour. I could follow and like a book about a loser and a bastard if it was funny, but the only way that The Ginger Man is funny is in the Happy Slapper sense – not really very funny at all, on reflection.