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Saville Paperback – June, 1978
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Top customer reviews
This is not a book I would ever have chosen to read, but I'm glad I did. It is the story of one young man's efforts to 'better himself,' largely to the pressure put upon him by his father, a miner, who wants something else for his son. The result is a young man who is not at home in his world.
The novel is very much about class. The protagonist cannot be content in his father's world of working in a mine, living in housing provided for him and his family. But he is not at home in the middle class, either. The world of teaching is wrong for him; the world of physical labor is closed to him. As a result, he a restless spirit doomed to be unhappy wherever he is.
I think he should move to America.
Set during World War II and after, the novel concentrates on daily life as a young boy deals as well as he can with the circumstances of life, even when he has to live with a neighbor for several months because his mother is hospitalized and his father works at night. Always limiting his descriptions to what the main character would observe at various stages of his life, Storey conveys Colin's world realistically, from his embarrassment at having a bath in front of the neighbor woman he stays with to his feeling that "everyone had moved away. At school he was suddenly cut off."
Colin's friends range from Batty and Stringer, two young delinquents who have a "hut" in the woods, to Michael Reagan, a violinist, fat Ian Bletchley, and Stafford, a wealthy boy who befriends him in school. Through them Storey is able to create a realistic novel which also shows what happens to these other, equally typical characters as the post-war years progress. At school Colin is subjected to snobbism, sadistic punishment, and emotional abuse by teachers who seem to regret their own lack of success and their awareness that the class structures of which they have been a part are breaking down. But he survives, making friends, discovering women, and learning about equality, both in terms of women's liberation and in terms of his own potential.
Ultimately, a colleague tells Colin, now an adult, "You don't belong to any class, since you live with one class, respond like another, and feel attachments to none." This breaking up of traditional class structures is Storey's theme, one repeated throughout countries and ages as young people achieve more than their parents, the communal spirit of villages changes, opportunities open up for those who work for them, and life becomes more global. Gracefully written, with not a word out of place, I can not recall when I've found a 500-page book that reads so quickly and so enjoyably. Mary Whipple