‘Oestrogen’ by Mike McCormack

McCormack has long, or until recently at least, been considered by many as a greatly underrated writer. His recent novel Solar Bones might have changed that, considering the coverage it got, but I wonder if it will lead to his stories being re-read over. I must say I haven’t read a novel of his yet (that Solar Bones says hi from my TBR pile), but I loved both his collections, Getting It In The Head (1996) and Forensic Songs (2012).

‘Oestrogen’, from his first collection, tells us of a young farmer who one day lands at his sister’s in Galway, intent on spending a couple of months there “to grow a pair of tits”. From this seemingly wacky premise McCormack touches interesting and difficult questions, such as mental health issues in rural Ireland (and beyond, really), and what it means to live both in a changing society and west Mayo. It is also, to me, a surprisingly touching story.

First published in Getting It In The Head, Jonathan Cape, 1996