Young Skins

Young Skins

Stories by Colin Barrett

September 2013
176 pages

Paperback: €12.99 (3rd printing, signed by author) 


Also available on Kindle: here here


Winner of the 2014 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Winner of the 2014 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature

Winner of the 2014 Guardian first book award

A recovering addict drifts closer to the oblivion he’d hoped to avoid by returning to his home town; two estranged friends hide themselves away in a darkened pub, reluctant to attend the funeral of the woman they both loved; a bouncer who cannot envisage a world beyond the walls of the small town nightclub his life revolves around.

Set for the most part in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh, Colin Barrett’s stories deftly explore the wayward lives and loves of young men and women in contemporary post-boom Ireland. Young Skins offers an utterly unique reading experience and marks the appearance of an arresting and innovative new voice in Irish writing.



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Colin Barrett was born in 1982 and grew up in County Mayo. In 2009 he completed his MA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin and was awarded the Penguin Ireland Prize. His work has been published in The Stinging Fly magazine and in the anthologies, Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails (Stinging Fly Press, 2010) and Town and Country (Faber and Faber, 2013).

Colin received bursaries from the Arts Council in 2011 and 2013. This is his first collection of stories.

You can follow Colin on Twitter: @ColinBarrett82





a stunning debut… all seven tales converge towards one singular theme: the failure constantly lurking in the shadows of the human condition. The timeless nature of each story means this collection can – and will – be read many years from now.

JP O'Malley, The Sunday Times

The most underpraised of the Irish newcomers, Young Skins is a fine collection dominated by the novella 'Calm With Horses', a bravura performance in which Barrett simply outwrites many of his peers with a chilling confidence that suggests there is far more beneath the surface than merely the viciously effective black humour.

Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times, Fiction of the Year

Chekhov once told his publisher that it isn't the business of a writer to answer questions, only to formulate them correctly. Throughout this extraordinary debut, but particularly in the excellent stories that bookend it, Colin Barrett is asking the right questions.

Chris PowerThe Guardian

Barrett's use of language is powerful and surprising – he talks about the "vasculature" of pipes on the underside of an upturned car, and a character worries that people are watching "the bulky hydraulics of his jaw" as he eats his dinner. These stories are moving and memorable and show a writer who understands people, place and the effects of porter on the human psyche.

David Robbins, Irish Independent

Colin Barrett’s stark debut Young Skins examines the lot of the young male in small-town Ireland with icy clarity. In the fictional town of Glenbeigh (“My town is nowhere you have been, but you know its ilk”) the striking Mayo coast becomes setting for seven tales of violence, loneliness and self-destruction. A place of stinted relationships and unfulfilled ambitions, Bord Fáilte brochure for the West of Ireland, it is not… But don’t let all that put you off. Barrett’s obvious joy in language keeps the book from melting into a complete puddle of gloom. The ease with which he strings words together makes for a rich register, with the loose cadence of a soft Irish lilt… Dialogue is sharp and colourful, descriptions shrewd and evocative, and the desperate, desolate characters will haunt you stubbornly when you’ve finished. 
Lily Ní DhomhnaillTN2 Magazine

It isn’t necessarily the job of fiction writers to explain our social landscape, but sometimes the best of them do. Colin Barrett’s short, brutal collection of stories presents clearly and without sentimentality a picture of the young Irish small-town male, in his current crisis of hopelessness and alienation.

Katy Hayes The Irish Times

These stories, exploring male friendship and often unrequited love convey the atmosphere of post-boom Ireland quite wonderfully. With little lucrative employment, the protagonists struggle on as best they can, seeing no way out…

I loved these stories, and empathised with every one of the protagonists. I like the way they challenge the readers’ prejudices and leave them wanting more. The writing is superlative. Every sentence counts. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Colin Barrett.

Sue Leonard, Books Ireland

Colin Barrett’s story collection, seven tales set in the grim surrounds of a fictional Mayo town, is a truly accomplished debut. The stories are no comforting pastoral—instead, we meet a cast of young men and women trapped in a variety of hopeless situations, some turbulent and messy, others of the quiet-desperation variety. In ‘Diamonds’, a recovering alcoholic takes up a job as grounds-keeper in his old school until he falls off the wagon; in a couple of stories, outsiders visit for a period—such as the students marking time in a summer job in both ‘The Moon’ and the excellent ‘Stand Your Skin’—only to clear out again, leaving those they were involved with ever more conscious of the limits of their world. There’s quite an overlap in tone with Kevin Barry, but Barrett is no pale imitator. His writing is confident and gritty—and every now and then he hits the reader with such a perfect turn of phrase it underscores a serious talent. Don’t bank on being uplifted by these gnarly portraits of rural Irish life, but do expect to be very impressed by the power of Barrett’s writing.

Sheena Davitt, The Metro Herald (4-star review)

Set, in the main, in Barrett’s home county of Mayo, in the fictional town of Glanbeigh, the book’s seven stories give us glimpses into the despairing, loving lives of a clutch of hopeless cases; like Dubliners before it, it tracks its characters first through youth and beyond into a less frantic, more contemplative (if equally screwed-up) middle age... What’s particularly exciting about Barrett’s work, though, isn’t his plotting (good as it is) or his settings (rock-solid and gritty) or even his idiolect (‘There was the wishbone snap of his nose breaking and the old man was clean out’.) or his dialect (‘Hector was awful itchy on the phone. Short and itchy,’ Dympna said.‘): his huge talent is in characterisation, in his ability to sketch a personality and a circumstance, tease the reader into making a judgment, and then wrench it all about ninety degrees... Potentially the best collection we’ll read all year: a massive new talent, and stories that will make you yearn and nod and cry.

Valerie O'Riordan, Bookmunch

This collection is a sustained and brilliant performance by a young writer of remarkable talent and confirmation that Colin is a writer of significance with something important to say... [It] is Colin’s mastery of characterisation and his seemingly endless ability to surprise us with the poetry and linguistic inventiveness of his prose that elevates these stories into deftly crafted works of art that are a pleasure to read from start to finish.

Andrew McEneff, Short Story Ireland