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Borstal Boy (Nonpareil Books) Paperback – January 1, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Autobiographical work by Brendan Behan, published in 1958. The book portrays the author's early rebelliousness, his involvement with the Irish Republican cause, and his subsequent incarceration for two years in an English Borstal, or reformatory, at age 16. Interspersed with tales of brutality are anecdotes about dramatic and musical pastimes and Behan's gardening and handicraft activities. The book is notable for capturing the immediacy of conversation among the inmates. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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8 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Nonpareil Books
  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; 3 edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567921051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567921052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This autobiographical account of Brendan Behan's arrest and imprisonment from 1939 until around 1943 in a British Borstal (youth correctional facility)is an outstanding piece of literature.

There are four primary strenghts to this great work.

First, the language is witty, charming, and creative. I found the mixture of Irish and British male adolescent working class slang to be musical and amusing. Behan had a wonderful sense of dialogue and the manner in which young men verbally duel with each other, striving for rank and dominance and friendship.

Second, the story is unique. A 17 year old IRA terrorist is arrested and sent to a youth facility full of adolescent petty criminals. The worlds of incarcerated vs. free; adult vs. adolescent; Catholic vs. Protestant; Irish vs. English: and criminal vs. political prisoner are just a few of the wonderful tensions and juxtapositions that Behan creates.

Third, is Behan's slow pace and ability to observe the most remote details, describe them uniquely, and then weave these streams of images together to create a world and to populate it with characters that ring true with every word.

Fourth, the story is a tremendous testament to the goodness of mankind. Underneath the tensions, the rivalry, the ideology, the story reveals the simple common kindness of mankind. Brendan Behan may have evoked this kindness through his own exceptional openness and acceptance of his fellowman or he may have observed this kindness through this insightful but possibly biased vision of the innate goodness of mankind; but, none the less, his faith in our sometimes distorted and crippled species shines through the autobiography like a beacon of hope.

I wish I could have given more than 5 stars to this superb work. Don't rush through this book. Let Behan take you into his experiences and his kind view of the world of man.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Borstal Boy makes me laugh out loud and also reminds me of my time in the British Royal Navy. One of the young Brendan Behan's fellow prisoners in the English young peoples' prison is a sailor named Charlie. The book shows some of the horrors of prison life but also a lot of the camaraderie that goes on whenever boys get together. Brendan Behan is very humorous, especially when writing about his court appearances, and when he's singing in prison. His descriptive language is brilliant, this from the first page, "A young one, with a blonde, Herrenvolk head and a B.B.C. accent shouted, 'I say, greb him, the bestud.' I have read this book at least four times, and will continue to be entertained by the wit and skill of the author. GREAT READ!!!
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Format: Paperback
In the annals of Irish literature about the Troubles and personal accounts of IRA involvement, Behan's autobiographical work stands alone. The text is at once witty, engaging, hilarious, sad, and enlightening.
Arrested at a young age in Liverpool with the makings of a bomb, his youth saves him from the usual grim prison sentence faced by Irish terrorists in England. Young Brendan is sent instead to borstal, a sort of English detention center for juvenile delinquents.
Behan emerges from the experience a changed man with reconsidered ideas about the world in which he lives.
This book is simply the most interesting account of prison life I have ever read. This text is the sort that one will return to again and again in the run of the years.
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Format: Paperback
I'm an avid reader and can't believe I overlooked this book for so long. Perhaps I dismissed Behan as a professional Irishman, known more for his carousing than for his writing. What a mistake! This memoir is profound, profane, funny and, ultimately, humane. Read this book now; you're in for a treat.
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Format: Paperback
There are several excellent reviews for this title, so I won't attempt to reinvent the wheel with mine.

The best I can say is that with each page of this incredible book, I find myself closer to a person I never thought I'd like, let alone truly love.

When all is said and done, Brendan Behan is not about The Cause or The Revolution or liberalism or conservatism or anything. Brendan is a human being, in it for Brendan and his best interests. But don't let this make you think that he is a selfish being. Quite the contrary... Brendan finds the humanity in others, far away from the propaganda and agendas he's been fed since infancy. And in that, Brendan finds the humanity in himself.

He's been gone now for... well, longer than I care to believe. But in this, his most powerful and insightful work, he speaks to an audience that is far from outdated, saying the things he feels and believes, with an honesty that most of us wish we had, but work far too hard to conceal. His candidness speaks to our deepest secrets, and opens up a self-awareness in those who wish to explore it.

I am an avid reader, 40 years and going... and I count this as my single favorite book. That is not a distinction given lightly.

Brendan Behan may not be here now, but his message of humanity and humor and growth is ageless. I can only hope that more people take a moment to read it.
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Format: Paperback
Borstal boy is a harrowing account of life in a British Borstal institution in the 1940's. What is remarkable about this book is the absence of bitterness and the lessons which can be learned about people and life in a sheltered institution such as a borstal prison. Behan's prose style, always engaging, flows seamlessly from tenderness to savagery. However, no matter how brutal the experiences of the young Behan, his basic humanity shines through. Highly recommended!
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