Three books about dumb kids

Just finished reading three books I’d been looking forward to, and none of them wholly pleased me.

What I Was, Meg Rosoff – All about a boy called Hilary (bless) who goes to a British boarding school and becomes a bit obsessed with another young boy called Finn, who lives by himself in a little hut that can only be reached during low tide.  I thought the revelation about Finn at the end was a bit of a let-down, since the rest of the book didn’t at all seem a revelation-type book.  Besides which I do not appreciate stories in which people’s childhood homes have sunk under the water when they return to them in old age.  This hits too close to home.

Spies, Michael Frayn – I put off and put off reading this because I thought I would really like it and I wanted to give myself a treat.  Spies is about a boy called Stephen during the Second World War, and how he and his entrancing, bossy friend Keith start spying on Keith’s mother because Keith says his mother is a spy – rather to the detriment of everyone involved.  Everything was vague and not terribly interesting, and it drove me wild when the grown-up Stephen would narrate about the young Stephen in third person for a little while, even though the bulk of the story was in first person.  Never talk about yourself in third person, world.  It reminds me of John Smith talking about how brave and handsome Captaine Smith was and how much the Savages admired him for his cleverness and general virtue.

The Servants, Michael Marshall Smith – Read about this book here ages ago, and have been trying to get it from the library ever since.  Of the three books I read today, I liked this one much the best.  It was absorbing and genuine and simple, all about an eleven-year-old boy called Mark whose mother has remarried and they’ve all moved from London to Brighton, and he’s discontented with the whole affair.  He meets an old lady who shows him some old servants’ quarters, and eventually he discovers that he can go into them and meet real proper old servants from Back In The Day, who are having a trying time getting their house in order.  I liked the book a lot – the Back In The Day bits aren’t as well-developed as I would have preferred, that’s all, but then they are metaphorical and that’s what you would expect.

  • Sounds like the third one was better, but the other two disappointing. I don’t like it when the point of view switches too often, either (especially when it seems to do so without reason)

  • I hate when that happens… it’s a pretty awful feeling, looking forward to a book and being dissappointed. It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. Were these books suggested to you?

  • That’s too bad about What I Was. The review that caused me to add it to my wishlist actually said the revelation was great. I wonder if having in mind that there will be a revelation from the start will affect my reaction to it.

  • jennysbooks

    Jeane – I actually love, love, love point of view shifts – when they’re warranted. I loved The Woman in White and The Moonstone for that reason. It just has to be done properly, so it’s normal and not clunky.

    Naomi – No, they weren’t suggested to me as such. I really liked one of Meg Rosoff’s other books, which is why I read What I Was; and I’ve been on this World War II kick lately, which is why I read Spies. The non-disappointing one was the only one I actually picked out because I read a good review of it. 🙂

    Nymeth – Without wanting to spoil anything, I’ll just say the big reveal seemed irrelevant. Almost like the author was trying to think of a way to end the story, and that’s what she settled on. Still do read it though! I’d be interested to know what you think of it.