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Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Skippy Dies by Paul MurrayI’m slowly but surely working my way through most of the 2010 Man Booker Prize Long List and am so pleased that I got hold of a copy of Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies early on in my quest. It’s a fabulous piece of work and thoroughly deserving of its place on this year’s Booker Long List. With my appetite for Paul’s writing now well and truly whetted, I look forward to getting a copy of his first novel An Evening of Long Goodbyes as soon as I possibly can.

Read on for a full review….

-- Skippy Dies by Paul Murray a Review by Des Greene --
Daniel “Skippy” Juster, on top of all the normal growing pains and confusion often experienced by adolescents, also carries the burden of rarely voiced family issues. The unspoken code between Skippy and his father that means Skippy must act the “little man”, keep a stiff upper lip, just get on with it.

A quiet and unassuming character, he forms an unlikely alliance with his overweight and eccentric boarding school roommate Ruprecht Van Doren. True to the book’s title, Skippy does indeed die, and very early on in the proceedings; it is therefore a retrospective examination of all the events and interactions that lead up to his demise that make up this wonderful story.

The main backdrop for the novel, a fictitious institution called Seabrook College in Dublin, also provides a rich vein of characters (backed up by the adjacent St. Brigid’s school for girls) to populate the book. The school-time dialogues and adventures of the central gang of Skippy, Ruprecht, Mario, Geoff and Dennis add much of the lightness and humour; and at times this is a seriously funny book. However, there is an undoubtedly much darker side, which emanates largely from the malign influences of a dangerous duo named Carl and Barry, but also from the way in which it depicts institutional abuse and the ways in which it is covered up.

Not to be outdone by the pupils, the staff of Seabrook also add richly to the mix, from the hapless Howard, who has been sucked back into teaching at his old school after failure in the wider world, to the sexy temptress Miss McIntyre, and the ridiculously funny character of the acting headmaster, dubbed The Automator.

Overall I found the book both uplifting and at the same time deeply sad; uplifting because of the humanity and care ultimately shown by the majority of the characters, and saddening because of the way in which youngsters are all too soon robbed of their childhood and innocence these days.

Congratulations to Paul Murray for this excellent second novel and his achievement in making it onto the 2010 Man Booker Shortlist. Lively, gritty, and sadly all too real, I can’t recommend Skippy Dies too highly, if you give it a try I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Already read Skippy Dies? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

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