Sunday, 25 May 2014

Jonathan Hill

Jonathan Hill is already known for his dark short stories and his funny novellas but here he takes a serious tone - and the book is devastating.  It's probably, though we're not yet in June, going to be my Book of the Year.  


My review -

This story, set in an English boarding school in the 1930s, looks at the effects of bullying and of a system in which the strongest survive. The prefects, with the collusion of the Headteacher, rule the school and decide on punishments. One teacher, John Gray, tries to bring the dangers to the head's attention but is not a strong enough character to make a stand. Married to the attractive nurse at the school, he has repressed his natural tendencies all his life and in an age when homosexuality is illegal this makes him vulnerable. We feel the tension mounting and the story moving inexorably towards disaster. The pressure-cooker atmosphere and sense of a world with its own rules is cleverly conveyed and the result is inevitable tragedy. The Head will do anything to cover it up and the pupils will do anything to survive. It's tense, bleak and so very unfair.

This is the author's first full length work and I found it totally absorbing and thought provoking. It is fraught with tension. There's hormonal teenage sexuality but never release or satisfaction. There is a man driven to the brink of madness but I'm pleased to say, I found a chink of light towards the end. Stunning!

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