Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Boy From Brighton, Geoffrey Knight

- Review by Mr Austro-Hungarian.

The Boy from BrightonEat your heart out, Edgar Allen Poe, and that pun was very much intended; who needs the heart beat in The Tell-Tale Heart when you have the tickety-tock-tock-tock from Geoffrey Knight’s The Boy From Brighton?

This short story is a quirky one. It is mainly focused on a Charlie – a young boy of seven – and his mother leaving their drunken father to stay with ‘Jane’, the woman’s sister from Brighton. This young man, all of seven, thinks he is invincible, as he is adamant that the surgeon’s operating on his heart – when he had a heart attack at four years of age – gave him a clock for a heart. This leads him into performing dangerous stunts that test his hypothesised immortality.

This is when we cue in The Boy from Brighton – a young man named Ant, who is from a troubled background. Ant comes to the rescue of Charlie, and makes sure that he is safe for the night.

I thought, first and foremost, that this was a very cute story about love and how it can save even the bleakest of situations. But it wasn’t just about romantic love; the story showed that love does not strictly limit itself in the form of a romantic partner, which I thought was a nice touch by the author. We all are loved, no matter who we are – we have parental, sibling, romantic, platonic…heck, even edible love! – and love can overcome anything, if given the chance.

I also thought the way the author used a very well-known event within history to skip forward in time was very clever. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is jumping back and forth in time without anything to ground me, and this was mitigated within this novel. The writing was also quirky and unusual – it sometimes read more like a poem than a piece of literary prose – but it worked for the most part; this story had the plot to match the whimsical and unique writing style.

If there was one thing that I had to say was a disappointing aspect of the book, however, it would be the realism of the seven-year-old boy. I often had to check back and make sure he was seven, because his actions, vocabulary choices and even physical abilities were not that of a boy of seven. For example, this…

   “Instantly, I started sprinting too, heading in the same direction but on the opposite side of the street, my skinny legs carrying me as fast as they could until I was running parallel with the boy…”

 …implies that a sixteen-year-old boy, who is hinted at being a shoplifter and can obviously sprint, is easily matched by a boy who is seven – this strikes me as odd. The language choice also does not help the cause for the realism of the characterisation. I do understand that this book is not going to be absolutely accurate to the portrayal of a juvenile mind, otherwise this would be a children’s story, but there were many times where the age of the boy was lost; this irked me.

However, it was still a pleasant read, and it was too sweet a book to really hold one criticism against the lovely morals about human nature and the seemingly limitless capacity with which love can operate.

For this reason, along with the quality of the writing, is why I give The Boy from Brighton four stars.

This book was supplied by the publisher, Wilde City Press, in return for an honest review.

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