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Kieron Smith, Boy Hardcover – November 10, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kieron Smith's coming-of-age in a rough Glasgow neighborhood is grimly rendered by Kelman in this stark and affecting novel. The younger of two boys, Kieron is overlooked and seen as simple compared to his brother, Matt, the smart one. Kieron's only safe haven is his grandparents' house, where his grannie treats him as the favorite and his granda and uncle teach him to fight (Uncle Billy suggests Kieron use a brick against larger bullies). But when the family moves across town to a better neighborhood, Kieron falls in with a group of rowdy youth from his new primary school, including Mitch, an angry, abused child, and he takes to climbing drainpipes and scampering across rooftops as an outlet for his frustrations. As the years tick by, Kieron's relationships with his family disintegrate (things with Matt get especially bad), and Kelman's raw, blunt narration drives home all of Kieron's loneliness, sadness and feelings of inadequacy. If you can roll with the Scots dialect, the narrative is rewarding, bleak and marvelous. (Nov.)
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PRAISE FOR JAMES KELMAN "James Kelman possesses an astonishing voice . . . Read a page of Kelman and you can't help but laud his sheer virtuosity."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World PRAISE FOR YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL IN THE LAND OF THE FREE"It may be the best book we've had thus far about the political and social reverberations of 9/11 in this country."--Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review

"A known master at portraying the details of life in Scotland and capturing, pitch-perfectly, the dialogue of his characters, Kelman here brings the inner and outer lives of a likable, often misunderstood boy fully into focus." (Booklist (starred) 2008-10-15)

"[A] stark and affecting novel...Kelman''s raw, blunt narration drives home all of Kieron''s loneliness...[R]ewarding, bleak and marvelous." (Publishers Weekly 2008-07-21)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (November 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013487
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,985,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on October 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Imagine, if you will, the first chapter of Joyce's A Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man turned into a 400 page interior monologue novel of boyhood, but transplanted from Dublin, Ireland to Glasgow, Scotland in a post WWII era working-class setting. That's is the best way I know to summarise the novel for readers unfamiliar with Kelman's strong, hard-hitting yet melodiously lyrical voice with which he endues all his characters and narratives.

Kelman never fails to amaze with his ability to put himself into his characters' minds, their entire worlds. In this case, the reader is translated into the world of boyhood and reminded of both how wondrous and how terrible it is to be a child. Kelman's narrative power is such that any adult reader is bound to find himself/herself having Proustian moments of reflection induced by this book, and incidents of childhood long-forgotten will spring suddenly to life, sparked by a minute detail. For Kelman, whilst melodic and lyrical par excellence, is also very detailed, perhaps a tad too much so in parts. Indeed, whole sections of this book could be torn out and reassembled into a book entitled something like, "A Young Lad's Manual for Climbing Trees, Drainpipes and Other Features of The Urban Landscape." This is the only fault I find in the book: These sections lead to rather strained longueurs, or they did for this reader. It is for this reason also that I don't find the book quite meets the standard set by "A Disaffection" and, especially, "How Late It Was, How Late." It's just not as relentless in its execution and power over the reader. But, this is a very high standard indeed for any book to meet. Kelman is the greatest living Scottish writer!
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Format: Hardcover
How is it possible that no one else has reviewed James Kelman's new novel? Maybe the America reading public just hasn't caught up to one of the world's major, major prose stylists. Kleman masterfully evokes a Scottish boyhood. I won't even bother with the plot, because this isn't a coming of age novel, and it doesn't try in any way to burden itself with some wide arch of plot in order to wrap up a singular experience; in other words, Kelman dares to say: childhood is what it is. Scottish childhood--at least this specific one--isn't going to give way to some grand apothosis. It is what it is. In taking this stance, Kelman creates a work of art that demands that you, the reader, come to terms with childhood; it forces the reader to simply remember that being a kid was great, and terror-filled, and marvelous; that being a kid brought you in touch with the deepest aspects of the culture. . .and so evoking it, brings the reader in touch with his or her past along with the past of a very specific culture. Do young boys think in terms of plot: no. Because he refuses to leave the vantage of the young boy, the book moves differently; changes in Kieron's life appear and he faces them and then moves on to to the next moment. What keeps you reading is the pure, clean, simple, language.
"I went to my grannie's by myself. I was glad. I liked it better."

Reviews in Europe were widely appreciative. Kelman, a Booker Prize winner, is barely known in the US. This one should've been an Oprah pick.
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Format: Hardcover
It's not often I agree with the blurb on a books dust jacket, but after reading James Kelmans "Kieron Smith, Boy" I feel that I can enthusiastically endorse the claims made that he is "the greatest British novelist of our times". The hero of the book is one Kieron Smith, younger son of a family who live in the Glasgow (presumably) of the 1950's. It charts his experiences, conflicts and thoughts as related by him, from the age when he is in the middle years of primary school to his early years at secondary.

This is an extraordinary performance on Kelmans behalf; the reader is thrust into the scuffed shoes of Kieron and will find it difficult to take them off, at least voluntarily. The book is utterly absorbing, and as someone who was once a boy himself, though an east coaster rather than a west coaster, and who grew up a few decades later, I found myself constantly back in my own past as well as transfixed by Kierons story. The re-creation of the young boys mentality that Kelman has put into writing is an awesome artistic achievement.

The book is at times melancholy, such as when Kierons granda is enduring his last hospital bound illness, but can often be hilarious such as when Kierons ruminates on religion, principally the differences between "Papes and Proddies", a running theme in his mind, and realistically so given the location of his childhood. The account of life in inner city Glasgow before moving to an out of town scheme, at school, in the tenement flat, at his gran and grandas, his conflicts with his older brother and parents, and those within Kierons head never once struck this reader as anything less than completely real.
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