Monday, February 28, 2011

Skippy Dies

I wondered what might the difference be, and if I would spot it, between a novel long-listed for the Man Booker prize and a short-listed one. Paul Murray's Skippy Dies was long-listed.

Skippy is a lad in the early days of secondary education and he dies in chapter one in a doughnut eating competition. That's not exactly a plot spoiler, given the title.

We then do the 'some months earlier' thing and build back up to the event, which arrives again not at the end but about three-quarters of the way through this long book (661 pages). By then we have understood the situation a bit differently and it becomes a study of the way a bereavement hits a school.

It is the last quarter of the novel which is weak. OK weaker. It's not that bad. Some of the adventures of the school kids become too far-fetched - the characters are almost believable but the plot isn't quite. So it falls between the two stools of a schoolboy novel and a study of bereavement. It is described as comic on the back cover but it isn't funny enough.

The text is good and reads easily. The setting of a catholic boarding school seems to work so the research is OK although for me thinking Cream wrote Layla is unforgivable.

I doubt very much if I have the staying power or literary nous to be a Man Booker judge, but I think I get the decision in this case.

Published by Hamish Hamilton 2010

If you want to read something shorter about a death at a school (as if) then my short-story is here.


MadPriest said...

Oh, that's a relief! For one awful moment there I thought you were going to announce that everyone's favourite bush kangaroo had ended up as road kill.

RuthJ said...

Speaking as a professional connoisseur of boarding-school stories, I must say that I enjoyed yours. So much that, being unavoidably interrupted a few paras from the end, I took the trouble to go back and finish it. And it was well worth the effort: the ending did not disappoint.

I wonder - as I always do when reading within this genre - how many of the pranks described were from real life. A good collection.