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3.4 out of 5 stars
Five Boys
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2003
These reviews agree on a lot of things. The book feels like 3 separate books: Bobby's story that's strangely cut short, a collection of short stories about the village and the tale of the Beekeeper. And the five boys? As somebody else says, we only ever scratch the surface of one of their personalities (Bobby isn't one of the five). And the ending is a shock.
So what have I got new to say? Well first, although the book is very disjointed I did enjoy reading it. Maybe Jackson could turn his hand to short stories sometime. Second, although there's a big shock at the end, there are one or two subtle bits earlier in the book that point towards it. Third, the beekeeper is an amazing character. He has a Doctor Who feel to him, in a William Hartnell sort of way. Eccentric on the outside, buzzing with inteligence on the inside and with an air of mystery and hint of mystical powers.
Did I say buzzing then? No pun was intended, but that's the kind of person he is. Was it skillful character development from Jackson that made me say it?
And finally, all the thoughts going through the reader's mind about he disjointedness of the book, take his attention away from the buildup for the surprise ending. If the whole book had been built around the ending, then it wouldn't have been such a shocker. Methodology in the madness?
Four stars from me, just for setting all these thoughts buzzing through my head.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
We all have lists of Books We Have Read But Wish We Hadn't. And in the words of Jesse from The Fast Show, this week I have been mostly Wishing I Hadn't Read Mick Jackson's Five Boys. (As I gave up 100 pages before the end, I half got my wish.)

The reason I wish I hadn't read it is because then I might still think it was good. Scott Aardvark below says that it's three stories that don't quite work, and that it's after the first part that it flags. I half agree: I think it starts badly too. Even in the opening scenes, while I still had a smile on my face and a letting-myself-be-taken-where-the-story-will frame of mind, nothing whatever of interest happens. There are no piquant observations, amusing incidents or moving characters. It's like Stepford in there.

We are led to believe from the cover that this book is "startlingly original" and "eccentric." While I agree it's "eccentric" to follow up a fantastic novel with a rotten one, the consensus ends there. The only way the string of sitcom-tastic self-contained scenes will intrigue you is if you're thrilled silly by such escapades as "boys have a nosey around old man's house," "boy helps out in church administration" and "visiting GIs shock local ladyfolk at barn dance with jitterbug stylings." Ho, and indeed, hum. All in all, as tales of provincial life go, it's too much Last of the Summer Wine and not enough League of Gentlemen.

And what makes this so doubly a sin, or at best a real head-hanging shame, is that (as you must know by now) Jackson's first novel The Underground Man was incredibly good. It had tragedy, comedy, originality, verve and skill - everything that Five Boys lacks. If it hadn't been written by Jackson you'd just toss it aside and think nothing more; as it is, it's a mystery: you can scan the pages of Five Boys all day for signs of the enormous talent that shone in every line of The Underground Man, but the horizon is uncluttered. And this is after reading (most of) it with goodwill and positivity aforethought: I dread to think how someone might react who hasn't encountered Jackson before.

All in all - in case you hadn't picked up the general vibe here - Five Boys must be the most disappointing second book since Harper Lee owned up to ghost-writing that Britney Spears novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2008
"Five Boys" is a book that left me baffled. It has something, but I'm not sure what. Like other reviewers, I was both charmed and enchanted by "The Underground Man" and was intrigued to read another book by Mick Jackson.

What I found positive about "Five Boys" is that the book transported me into another world: a rather odd world of childhood and memory, Englishness and history. This is a world of "Dad's Army" meets "Lord of the Flies" - on the surface whimsical and nostalgic but with an eerie menace below the surface.

As other reviewers have said, the book fails in its lack of characterisation and its disjointed structure, leaving the reader rather bewildered at the end as it what it was all about. I found the style of writing - particularly the continual ommission of pronouns - rather annoying, although Jackson's ability to conjure up a picture in the mind is excellent.

All in all, "Five Boys" is a bit of an oddity, but it won't put me off reading more from Mick Jackson.
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on 30 November 2001
Far from the drudgery of the classroom classic 'Carrie's War', Mick Jackson's second novel is a refreshingly modern interpretation of wartime Britain.
Billy, the novel's protagonist, is an evacuee from London, with the 'Five Boys' developing from the notorious welcome party of local bullies to his sole source of guidance and friendship in a remote Devon village.
Jackson bravely removes the protagonist from his storyline halfway through the novel, and a series of comical, and yet highly emotional, twists lead the reader into a deeper relationship with the Five Boys themselves.
The novel has obviously been painstakingly researched, and many older readers will appreciate the nostalgic affect of the wartime domestic detail, whilst also providing younger readers with a valuable insight of life during the second world war.
However, whilst set during the war, this is not primarily a record of this period, but rather a fictional account representing the lives of individual lives within the period. It is highly refreshing to find that this novel does not become overtaken by details of drudgery and hardship, but also incorporates many episodes of touching childhood humour and irony.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 November 2009
I was attracted to this book by its intriguing cover featuring the (Fry's) Five Boys on the outside and a photograph of bees and a honeycomb on the inside (design by Pentagram). I did really enjoy the book and in many ways that cover was the key to the book. We are introduced to the Five Boys by the London evacuee Bobby and I did regret that he disappears mid-way through the book but he is replaced by the enigmatic Aldred as the central character. However, the book really takes off with the arrival of the amazing Bee King (back to the cover again).

I found the book a very evocative and magical account of rural village life and for someone too young to remember Mick must have carried out a great deal of research to find out details of life in Devon during the Second World War. I liked the slow pace of the book and his ability to construct the village almost brick-by-brick so that you felt you were walking through the lanes with the five boys. I found parts of it laugh-out-loud funny and other parts very touching and tremendously sad. I'll look forward to reading Mick's other books.
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Five Boys
I really enjoyed reading this book because we have never been taught about the Blitz and its consequences at school in our country. What a great story of Bobby's stay in Devon during WW2! After reading Mick Jackson's fabulous The Underground Man I've found The Five Boys even better.
Despite all positives of the book I would like to doubt if such things like transistor radio and aerosol sprays were available during WW2. Maybe it's just a wrong interpretation or translation but can somebody tell me what's correct?
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on 17 December 2004
The juxtaposition of the tradition and conformity of life in a country village with the idiosyncratic behaviour of its inhabitants themselves is delightful and Mick Jackson's take on the behaviour of the adults - as seen through the eyes of the Boys - will have you reminiscing about your own confused childhood perceptions.
It's an odd, intriguing and yet comforting read. Best of all, it's absolutely hilarious.
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on 7 September 2014
Disappointing. It started well then Bobby gets removed from the plot, presumably to be killed by Howard Kent. And the Bee King is Bobby's father, or that's how I interpreted it. It took two attempts to read and wasn't really worth it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2001
This book was a great companion on a recent trip, the only problem was keeping my girlfriend from stealing it. Great characters throughout and neat twists, with a succession of enjoyable stories. I really enjoyed it and am keen to find out more for myself about bee keeping after gaining an insight into its mysteries from Mick's book. I've just got back from my short holiday and have already ordered the Underground Man, because I've never enjoyed such a readable book as this before. I can't recommend this book highly enough and look forward to following this author and the marvellous tales he tells.
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on 27 December 2012
well i think its a great book. i can forgive the separation of stories. it was devon, it was informative, it captured another time and another place perfectly. Mick should write more.
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