Skippy Dies - Paul Murray

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Skippy Dies - Paul Murray

Post by Graham on Fri Sep 28, 2018 7:10 pm

A few weeks ago, I was so impressed by Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts I thought it might be the best book I would ever read. Skippy Dies is right up there with it. Were it not for a lurch into tragedy two thirds of the way through it would be my favourite.

Murray’s book is set in Seabrook College an old Irish fee-paying school struggling to keep up with the times. My only acquaintance with public schools is my childhood reading of Billy Bunter, a million miles from my own experience, and a playschool compared to the gulag that is Seabrook.

Skippy Dies is many-layered. There are 16-year-old nascent drug-dealers, a jaded history teacher considering an affair, an antediluvian priest who believes in education by terror, and within telescope distance another school full of pubescent girls. The story revolves around Daniel ‘Skippy’ Justers, a troubled 14-year-old whose parents leave him in school over half term break and who is in love with one of the girls barely glimpsed through the telescope’s lens. The combined schools’ Halloween hop descends into concupiscent chaos followed by mass vomiting. Billy Bunter this is not.

If you were ever a teenage boy you will know it is all authentic, from lighting farts to snorting the contents of your mother’s medicine cabinet (well smoking cinnamon sticks in our case). About the girls though I’m not so sure. None of them ever let me do what Carl does on p. 229.

Murray shares with Hall a flair for inventive language. ‘Jeekers’ Prendergast’s mother is ‘a pinch-faced dwarf with the permanent appearance of sucking sulphuric acid through a straw’. Someone else has eyebrows like ‘yetis jumping off a cliff’. Unlike the Raw Shark Texts Murray’s book has darker, more contemporary themes. You have been warned.

Graham
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