Book four of the 48-hour Book Challenge binge. (I am currently up to seven books, but I need to let it sit in my brain fora few hours before I can blog it.) Once I get this stack blogged, I think I need a break to eat. Or, find quick, easy food I can eat while reading.
Toby Jenkins starts every term counting down the days until he can leave again. He’s not Toby at school, he’s Jinks.And he always cries on the train. But this term, things are going to be different. First, there’s Wanda, the cook’s green-eyed daughter, who’s helping out her mother for the term. Even though he’s a toff and she’s an oik, he finds that just the thought of her makes school more bearable. And then there’s the new boy, Christopher. He’s not like anyone else at the school–he’s self-assured, a pacifist, and he questions things. Christopher always wants to know why. But what’s more than that, Christopher claims to have miraculous powers. His powers, and Jinks’ faith in him, are put to the test when Jinks inadvertently crosses over onto the territory of the oiks, the town boys, and starts a schoolboy war.
This is a totally unsentimental look at boarding school. (After hearing Michael Morpurgo speak at Kaleidescope last fall, it doesn’t surprise me.) This isn’t a jolly hockeysticks Enid Blyton story, but it’s not Lemony Snickett and the Austere Academy or Joan Aiken, either. The school itself reads like a pretty realistic depiction of shool life in the UK in the 50’s. Nobody’s starved, the schoolmasters aren’t deliberately cruel, but it’s a pretty harsh environment. (I think Jinks is about twelve or thirteen, and Swann, the youngest boy at the school, is only seven.)
It’s also a story about faith and belief. Chrisopher has visions, and is convinced that God speaks to him, and that he’s the next incarnation of Christ. He recruits Jinks and several other boys as his disciples, and proceeds to quietly try to do good. I’m still not quite sure what I think of it. It’s not a preachy story, or intent on disbunking anything. I’m sure it will offend some people, but if you’re comfortable with a different sort of story about religion, Michael Morpurgo is a hugely talented storyteller and this book’s no exception.
I’d planned on briefer blogging than I’ve been doing this weekend, but I seem to be reading books that I have things to say about. I’m not doing any editing though–so I hope I’m making sense!
(And at some point, I need to read The Butterfly Lion, which is based on the time the author ran away from boarding school–at least the beginning, anyhow.)