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The Boy at the Gate: A Memoir Hardcover – September 3, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Abandoned by his mother at age eight at the notorious Artane Industrial School in Dublin, Ellis lost his childhood. Decades later, the professional musician begins to recover his past by recording the album 800 Voices about his experiences, and this powerful memoir gracefully tells that story. A gifted writer, Ellis is effective at presenting abuse and neglect from the young boy’s perspective, without the elaboration of hindsight, the pathos of the memories only unraveling fully later. The tale is as rough as his tweed trousers and hobnail boots, rough as the cold showers and stinging leather straps he was forced to endure. Ellis is at his most poetic when writing about the power of music to protect and motivate him. The neglectful parents, the cruel Christian Brothers, and the scrappy orphanage boys are fully drawn, without mercy but equally without demonizing them. The rare moments showing kindness and courage in those surrounding him sparkle against a relentlessly grim backdrop. Filled with both winks and tears, this book proves that goodness can shine even in the ugliest places. --Bridget Thoreson

Review

“[Danny Ellis] moves fluidly between present and past, exploring a hard early life and its aftereffects with a mischievous tone.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611458927
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611458923
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elly in WNC on September 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I loved reading this book. Danny Ellis's telling of his years in an Irish orphanage (and his recollection of life in Dublin's streets before his orphanage days) is proof positive that humankind survives, even thrives, not despite obstacles but because of them. Ellis not only shares the depths of his childhood self, but of the community of 800 other `lads' with whom he shared his fate: coming of age in Ireland's infamous Artane Industrial School. What is particularly wonderful about this memoir, and sets it apart from so many others, is that Ellis is served incredibly well by his skill as a singer/songwriter - he chooses his content and his words carefully. He knows what to put in, and what to leave out, giving his readers a beautiful, funny, and sometimes devastating read. Ellis is a clear and concise storyteller. In Boy at the Gate, he's spoken for many.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ItzPeggy on September 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book moved me deeply, on many levels. It's absolutely brilliant, and the writing - ohmigoodness, the Danny Ellis writing - elevates a very difficult story to a beautiful tale of redemption and peace and acceptance all the while celebrating the joy that is music.

I was transported into another realm with the 1960s Dublin orphanage story, was alternately chilled and warmed by his inimitable way of telling the story from his perspective, and was finally rejoicing at the glorious way in which he describes how music is the savior and the hope, and, the fun. Let's not forget that there is some fun in this book.

I especially liked the pacing of the book. A little bit of way back when, a little bit of now, a little bit of the in-between times, and then stories of how the book came to be and the process of unearthing his memories and coming to terms with them. The bond that he has with his wife is clear in the retelling of their interactions from the time that the first song came pouring out of him until the book was finished and they'd made a return trip to Artane - together.

This book is SOOOOOOOOO timely with all the anti-bullying sentiment - whether it's physical or emotional, done by peers or others. Bullying, poverty and abandonment transcend time, geography, generations, classes. Music also transcends these, and what a pity that it's so lacking in public school curricula these days. There are SOOOOOOOO many lessons in these stories.

I am profoundly grateful to him for sharing his story so authentically and for showing what open honest writing is all about - beautifully. MUCH respect. I intend to start again at the very first page and read it differently so that I pay even more attention to the magical writing now that I know the story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By WrittenBy on June 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
It's been said that we all have stories to tell about some event in our lives. And while true, it's rare that an entire book could be filled with that story. Danny Ellis' life story is that rare exception. In his tale of growing up in the very definition of a dysfunctional family and later, while still a boy, in an infamous Artane School Orphanage in Ireland during the 1960s we get a glimpse into a world we should all be grateful we can read about and not experience first-hand. As a reader, we are witness to the joy, pain and amazing resilience of a little boy who whose life teetered on disaster but ultimately was rescued by music. His story is uplifting, not maudlin and reads with ease, as if hearing it spoken in a sweet Irish brogue. Ellis' is an authentic voice, something as rare as a good story. He opens himself to us, letting us see both the shenanigans and hilarity of his youth that helped offset the anguish of a child abandoned. You can't help but smile through the tears. This book is proof that the human spirit is strong and only made stronger by having art in our lives. For it is his art - his music - that brings this story full circle. I recommend Danny Ellis' book, The Boy At The Gate, for all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Al Schlimm Jr. on June 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
We came to know Danny's music first. Mutual friends - outstanding songwriters themselves - had mentioned his talents. So we started listening, went to a couple of shows, got to know him a bit... On a long road trip we fell hard for his 800 Voices record. We cranked it up, got a little quiet, and soon found ourselves wandering the hardscrabble neighborhoods of mid-century Dublin. We played the record over and over, certain that Danny's compelling story deserved a wider audience. A film perhaps... or a musical! We were excited to learn that he'd written this book, which we devoured in a few days. Reading it is much like seeing Danny perform - he pulls you ever closer with his unique voice, charms you with his wit, and freely shares the most intimate details of his life. Like a life in music, the book is a deep, humbling, rewarding exploration of a sensitive soul's deepest corners. We highly recommend pairing it with 800 Voices, a conceptual song cycle that songwriter David Wilcox has called a masterpiece. Thank you for these efforts, Danny. Our lives are the richer for them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gloria L. Davis on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book after sitting beside Danny at one of his workshops. I could go into sad detail as to why my voice had been silenced but suffice it to say that as Danny held me steady with his gentle eyes and toned with me...those hands that had silenced me 65 years ago began to release themselves from my throat. My husband, with Danny's help, discovered the immense power and beauty of his own voice. I did not plan to buy his book but was prompted to do so by one of Danny's Skype students who said, " Glo , the words you use are musical...you will find that same music in Danny's writing. You must read his book."

Danny's story was written the same way he writes his haunting songs. I was lifted from 2013 and carried to the slums of Dublin in the 1940's and 50's. "I" was a pompous, swaggering, swearing survivor; ragged, hungry, cheating, begging and stealing to ensure that my mother and siblings survived.

When "my" mother left me at the gate of that treacherous school at eight years of age I was frozen with panic. I felt every slash of the leather and the terror that followed "me" every minute of those 8 years.

And then Danny found his true self and his passion, and with it, survival. He stepped out of my trance and evolved before my eyes while I cheered him on.

When I closed the book the sun was setting and for a moment I mourned the fact that Danny had moved on from my life ...but knew that the energy and sweetness of the man who helped me "sing my throat open" shall never leave me.
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