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Publisher's Summary

“This is Dickens in the present tense, Dickens for the 21st century.” (Roddy Doyle, The New York Times Book Review)

An Irishman in 19th-century England is forced to take sides when his nephew joins the bloody underground movement for independence in this propulsive novel from the acclaimed author of The North Water.   

Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Chicago Tribune and One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The New York Public Library • New Statesman • Publishers Weekly

Manchester, England, 1867. The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting its revenge. Stephen Doyle, an Irish American veteran of the Civil War, arrives in Manchester 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 arrives on O’Connor’s doorstep looking for work, he cannot foresee the way his fragile new life will be imperiled - and how his and Doyle’s fates will become fatally intertwined.   

In this propulsive tale of the underground war for Irish independence, the author of The North Water 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 rural 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. 

©2020 Ian McGuire (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A brilliant historical novel; part Cormac McCarthy and part Raymond Chandler. The Abstainer tells a story of people trapped by class, a simmering revolution, and their own frailty, but it’s ultimately a very human and compelling novel that gives us a clear glimpse into the hearts and souls of its characters. McGuire is a writer who isn’t afraid to take risks and change course from his previous books." (Philipp Meyer, author of The Son)

"McGuire has crafted a riveting tale of violence and retribution against the backdrop of the 1860s Fenian rebellion - precursor to the Troubles and one of those rich historical incidents you learn about and wonder, Why didn't I know about this before? He has a keen sense of how to mix precise local details with transcendent global themes." (Michael Punke, author of The Revenant)

"The Abstainer is truly terrific - a can't-put-down book. It's nothing less than a tight and spare and 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) 

What listeners say about The Abstainer

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    4 out of 5 stars

STOP NOW! TOO MANY SPOILERS!!

This is a terrific story. I was absorbed. It paints a very bleak and sensory picture, and if you enjoyed North Water, you will love this. Some of the other reviews are too revealing with regards to the ending. Don't blow it by reading more reviews ... just go by the stars if you want to gauge other readers' opinions. I will leave it at that. enjoy!

3 people found this helpful

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Not very good.

I loved North Water so I was really looking forward to this one. It is OK. But not even close to as well written and cleverly plotted as North Water. The narration in Irish is good. But when the narrator switches to some weird Long Island/Brooklyn accent for one of the main characters it is kind of cringy. The bar was set high by North Water. This one is not ven close. Some authors only have one great book in them.

1 person found this helpful

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“Pinky Blinders” meets “The Abstainer”

Story could have been a third shorter and more focused on main character’s search for love. Story does link closely to “Pinky Blinders” (Netflix Series)except for the time difference. Narration is very good.

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Excellently written, wonderful descriptions, depressing

The book is incredibly well written but is Depressingly realistic . The title is significant. I listened to it and the narrator was excellent. The writing is Dickensian as per the New York Times reviews. And the story is like the history of Ireland, frustratingAnd feels hopeless.

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Captivating

Hard to put down, which says a lot considering much of the plot is dark. I rarely read mysteries if they have any gruesome parts, but the cringe-worthy parts were overshadowed by the writing. This is testament to the gorgeous storytelling and wonderful narration. Read reviews by critics in the New York Tines, The Guardian, etc and you will want to give this a try. You won't be disappointed.

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Not good, save your credit

Had high hopes for this one, and I trusted that there would be some sort of resolution or redeeming element to the story. It had the makings of being a type of Irish Les Miserables. Not so much. Cannot not recommend this strongly enough. Poor diction as well. The author uses “he thinks” or “she thinks” in virtually every patch of dialogue. Incredibly annoying and distracting.

1 person found this helpful