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Borstal Boy (Arena Books) [Paperback]

Brendan Behan
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

5 April 1990 Arena Books

'I have him bitched, balloxed and bewildered, for there's a system and a science in taking the piss out of a screw and I'm a well-trained man at it.'

So writes Brendan Behan, poet, writer and literary legend, of the episode that coloured his life. Arrested in Liverpool as an agitator for the IRA, he was tried and sent to reform school. He was sixteen years old.

The world he entered was brutal and coldly indifferent. Conditions were primitive, and violence simmered just below the surface. Yet Brendan Behan found something more positive than hate in Borstal: friendship, solidarity and healing flashes of kindness. Extraordinarily vivid, fluent, and moving, this is a superb and unforgettable piece of writing. Borstal Boy was adapted into a film in 2000.

Frequently Bought Together

Borstal Boy (Arena Books) + Confessions Of An Irish Rebel (Arena Books) + After The Wake (Classic Irish Fiction)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (5 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099706504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099706502
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"He has more than charm, he has instinctive kindness and charity, a verbal grace, an unforced assertion of a strong personality" (Sunday Times)

"The best thing in Irish writing since Sean O'Casey" (The Spectator)

Book Description

A moving autobiography from the famous, even infamous Irish playwright and author, Brendan Behan. Continuing the longstanding tradition of political Irish literature, propagated by James Joyce and Sean O'Casey, this is the true story of life in the IRA.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, compassionate and a great story. 23 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This is an autobiography about Behan's teenage years before and during World War 2, which he spent in a British borstal serving a sentence for IRA membership. I really enjoyed this book which works on more than one level. It is really entertaining - some of the characterisations and turns of phrase are hilarious. It's also a great book about growing up and getting to know yourself. The setting is just a starting point - he shows how he forms friendships with people he thought were his enemies and how he confronts his own prejudices. Don't be put off by what might seem a narrow subject area, because the way Behan tells his own story makes it of universal interest.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant 2 Dec 2003
By A Customer
Although this book was written some years ago, its sentiments still ring through. Captures beautifully the state of mind of a confused young man who genuinly believed all he had been taught by his anti-anglo grandmother. Beautifully written and very touching autobiographical account of the authors early life. A pity he failed to learn from many of the mistakes he made and went on to lead an eventful but ultimately tragic life. Highly recommended. Very funny and at times very sad and touching. Will strike a cord with many people who have found themselves in extreme situations having to survive alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One fat Irishman 10 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brendan behan was Sui generis, one of a kind. Words flow from him like wine from an overturned bottle, unstoppable and fluid; sometimes puzzling, sometimes touching, often hilarious. The world has changed and we'll never see his like again, more's the pity.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The shattering of long held myths 27 Oct 2002
By DD Dean
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I though for most of my life that both the IRA and anyone who had been sent to a Borstal Institution (a 'bad boys school', I was told) were at best to be feared, at worst to be despised.
With his biography 'Borstal Boy' Brendan Behan effortlessly blows both of my long held myths out of the water.
His account of his time spent under the influence of the British Judicial System, at a tender and incredibly impressionable age is writen with a stunning intermingling of humour and wisdom, and with shocking honesty.
I found it hard to put down, drawn as I was into the lives of 'Paddy''Chewlips' 'Joe' and 'Jock' not to mention 'Jones 538'. It is a great read, but more importantly perhaps, a slight insight into a world populated by young, and often troubled, young men.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talk about un-put-downable............. 18 Oct 2004
By A Customer
Brilliant!!!!!!!!!! A touching story abount a confused young man who learns that those whom he thought were his natural enemies were in fact no different than himself. In fact they had more in common with him than many of the upper and middle class of his own race. A brilliant and touching book with plenty of light moments as well as a serious underlying lesson for those who believe what they are told rather than basing their opinions of others on their own experiences. We will never see his likes again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Borstal boy 19 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
fantastic book, brill story, well worth reading, the film is not as good as this book, will read again when i get it back from family members.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good book for teenagers 16 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book as a teenager,I bought it for my son and he loves it. Give Ireland back to the Irish.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic depiction...for its time 6 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was fortunate to see a dramatised production of "Borstal Boy" at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in August 1968 and I was enthralled by Behan's raw depiction of a teenage IRA member (himself) held under the British (I must emphasise ENGLISH as I am a Welsh-speaking Cymro sympathetic to the cause of Irish separatism) penal system. The book is a mixture of the naivety of youth, impressive historic knowledge of Ireland with which Behan was imbued from a young age and is written in a style redolent of autobiographical literature of its age. English people will find its political truths and their nation's refusal to see the Irish Republican viewpoint difficult to grasp, but they might, just might understand some basic truths about the then impending demise of their colonialist exploitative past and the Protestant people of Northern Ireland should try to understand the cruel consequences of the religious bigotry that has plagued the beautiful Emerald Isle.
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