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Posts Tagged ‘teenage narrator’

Cassandra Mortmain, the narrator of this story, lives in a crumbling old castle with her beautiful but self-centred sister Rose, her younger brother Thomas, her remote (and frankly very unlikeable) father, her eccentric but hugely likeable stepmother Topaz, and Stephen, a young man who lives with the family and looks after the castle for them.  They are penniless, and often struggle even to eat half-decent meals; all their decent furniture has been sold, and things don’t look likely to get any better.  Nonetheless, they somehow rub along together and seem happy enough.  Their quiet little life changes completely with the arrival of American brothers Simon and Neil – suddenly there seems to be a way out of poverty, but things are never quite as simple as they appear.  And everything that happens is faithfully recorded by Cassandra in her journal, which forms this novel.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I really really enjoyed the first half, and thought that it may well turn into an all-time favourite.  Cassandra was witty and funny – clearly an intelligent narrator, but still charmingly naive.  The way she described certain events made me laugh out loud, and it was very easy to picture what she was writing about.  In the second half of the book, things took a slightly more angst turn.  I’m not about to give away any spoilers, but suffice to say that Cassandra went through a lot of emotions, and all of them are described here – sometimes it felt like they were described time and time again!  At this point, the humour took something of a back seat.

The characters were all very well depicted, and for the most part were likeable.  Certainly Cassandra herself was very endearing, and I also warmed to Topaz and Thomas.  However, the father of the house was not just remote with his family, but sometimes downright horrible to them – I desperately wanted his wife Topaz to kick him into touch, but sadly most of his behaviour was tolerated – almost to the point of encouragement – by his family.

What is worth mentioning though is the ending.  Without telling what happens, I will say that I thought I knew exactly where this book was going, and when I did reach the end, I was genuinely surprised, and very pleased as the ending I had imagined was not one I would have liked.

Overall, I would say that there is plenty to enjoy here, but most of the giggles are definitely to be found in the first half of the book.  I’m not sure I would ever read it again, but I’m certainly not disappointed that I picked it up in the first place.

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Danny Delaney is a 13 year old boy whose life changes beyond comprehension one day, when his mother knocks down a little boy, who ends up in a coma. She struggles to cope with the guilt and Danny feels confused and isolated. His father tries desperately to keep the family together, but it looks as though things are about to fall apart.

This book is one of the ‘Quick Reads’ series (I read it within a couple of hours), and at only 101 pages of large print, it manages to pack quite a lot of story in! It is narrated by Danny himself, and I do think that the author managed to get into the mind of an adolescent very well.

Obviously, due to the length of the book, there is not a lot of time for character development , but this is a story which is plot driven, rather than character driven. The disintegration of normal family life is easy to imagine and well portrayed from the point of view of the youngest son. The writing flowed very easily, and I was never bored. I’ve read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but I think I actually preferred this book. It certainly would encourage me to look out for more work by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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An unnamed male teenage narrator describes summer in London in 1958.  In the earlier parts, his main concerns are his love for ex-girlfriend Crepe Suzette, his misgivings about his family, and spending time with his various friends. However, as the novel progresses, he describes the rising racial tensions of the time, which inevitably spill over into violence.

The narrator lives in a poorer part of London which he refers to as Napoli, and whose population is very multi-cultural, and also houses a lot of people on the fringes of society at the time, such as homosexuals and drug addicts.  A new youth culture is just emerging and so is the popularity of jazz music in Britain.

I enjoyed this book, on the whole, although I found the narrator hard to engage with, despite the fact that we were seeing events through his eyes.  He seems to have more acquaintances than actual friends, and many of those are fairly transient characters, who seem to serve as a sounding board for the narrator’s thoughts and beliefs.

Things do become more heated at the close of the book, and with it, the maturing narrator also starts to care about bigger issues. However, although he has strong feelings about the events that take place, I found little emotion in his telling of such events.

I wasn’t around to experience the era or the location of the times described, but the telling of the story does seem to have an air of authenticity about it, and described London as a vibrant and exciting place to be, but with an air of underlying tension.

I usually prefer character driven books, but in this novel, the characters take second place to the city of London itself, which is really the biggest character of all.

Overall, an enjoyable read, and much better than the film adaptation!

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