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Mswas’ CBR-IV Review #3 – The Boys Of Summer by Ciarán West

08/11/2012

The Boys of Summer by Ciarán West

I know Ciarán West through a friend of an online friend. That is to say, not at all, really.

When I saw that he had written a book, I bought it – to help a budding writer – but I didn’t hold out much hope.  As someone who’s known to friends and family as a big reader, and hobby-ish writer, I’ve been given  writing of a LOT of different qualities over the years. Most are people’s first stabs at writing anything at all, and most, honestly, are not very good. Even as the moderator of Cannonball Read IV, authors who’ve approached us with offers of their self-published novels have had skills that, shall we say, vary greatly.

But then, I read the book.

Wow.

West has created such a real world in his novel. Told from the viewpoint of Richie, The Boys Of Summer is the story of one summer week in 1989 Ireland.

It’d been boiling for weeks. Mam said last time we’d a summer like this was in 1977, when she was pregnant with me. I used to wonder what she’s looked like; twelve years younger, with a big belly on her. I seen pictures of her from before that, when she was young; people used to say she was beautiful. She just looked like Mam to me.

We view the events of that week through Richie’s 11-year-old eyes as he deals with the dynamics in the neighborhood, his home, his burgeoning love life, his parents, his friends.

Dermot, Shane, Joe, Dara, Seán, and Richie  hang around together that boring summer, and they pounce on the news that a violent crime against a younger child had been committed in the Quarry. Based on some personal information from one of their own, they decide who they think the culprit is and decide to to investigate.

But this is no Scooby Doo mystery. This is a real story with hard truths that takes a turn into the sinister, and I raced through it all along with the protagonist, Richie. Richie’s interactions with each of his friends, his mother, his father, Marian – the new girl next door, and others in the neighborhood.

Richie is like  little Jack in  Emma Donaghue’s Room. We read the words of his naive view of the world, but we know they are not completely accurate.   In seeing Jack or Richie’s skewed perspectives,  the reader sees the real truth of the matter. Jack, of course, had a completely distorted take on reality, but Richie’s viewpoint rang in that true/false way too at times.

..Mam would get cross if you took too long. ‘It’s just common sense,’ she’d say. She said that about a lot of things I was no good at.

Though the kids’ slang was not in my wheelhouse, I found myself sighing with recognition and approval many times at West’s prose. Richie’s comment over whether to tell Shane about his interactions with Marian.

I felt like telling him straight out what me and her had done. I didn’t though, cos you’re not supposed to tell. I wasn’t a gentleman, but I knew that. 

I also loved his interactions with his Mam.

‘You know I love the bones of you, don’t you?’ She turned off the gas under the kettle, cos it had started whistling.

‘Yeh-huh,’ I could feel a blush coming all over me, and I didn’t want her to see it. I loved her too, but you couldn’t really say it.

And the moment, the moment where the novel turns on a dime, West offers us a fervent hope that can only be dashed. We ride it out to the end, as he ends the novel with a quieter hope, a true hope for the future, for Richie.

I highly recommend this novel, and I am really looking forward to more from Ciarán West.

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