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Matthew and Sheila [Paperback]

Robin Jenkins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2010
Robin Jenkins gets inside the soul of an isolated young boy, Matthew, who is abandoned by his painter father after his mother's death and is left to be brought up by his sternly religious relatives and a family housekeeper. At school Matthew encounters the angelic Sheila, a preternaturally bright child, who reveals to him that she has in fact committed murder in the past. When Matthew's father returns to the household with a new wife, Matthew decides to put Sheila's claims to the test.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0748662391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748662395
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,274,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Let me alert everyone to the best-kept secret in modern British literature . . . if you are interested in books that are humane and wise, not slick and cynical; then treat yourself this year to some Robin Jenkins. --Andrew Marr

Many people can produce a novel, but very few are authentic writers whose sentences and paragraphs give intrinsic pleasure. Jenkins is one of them. --J. B. Pick

His persistent creativity for a half-century makes this Scottish writer worthy of the greatest respect throughout the English-language world --Guardian

About the Author

John Robin Jenkins was born in 1912, one of four children, in the village of Flemington, near Cambuslang. He studied English at the University of Glasgow. When World War II broke out, he registered as a conscientious objector and was directed to work for the Forestry Commission; he used this experience in the acclaimed novel, 'The Cone Gatherers'. In 1957, he moved abroad to work in Spain, Afghanistan and Malaysia. In 1968, he settled in Dunoon where he remained for the rest of his life. In 2002 he received the Saltire Society s Award for Lifetime Achievement. He died in 2005. Widely regarded as one of Scotland's greatest ever writers and once described as Scotland's Thomas Hardy, Robin Jenkins was one of the major forces of twentieth-century British literature.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Matthew and Sheila - good and evil? 15 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an unusual book. It is the disturbing tale of a young boy, Matthew, product of a strict, Calvinistic Scottish family. When his mother dies, Matthew leaves the isolated family home and goes to live with his housekeeper guardian. Then he meets the strange, alluring Sheila, a girl of his own age who speaks to him of murder and the supernatural. Is she evil or simply an unhappy fantasist? The thing that strikes you about this story is that it seems to be firmly rooted in the Celtic tradition - it reads like a fairy-tale (there is a haunting quality of timelessness) - and the figure of Sheila typifies the ambiguity of supernatural female figures in Celtic myth; the faerie that entices and charms her victims, the trickster, the destroyer. There is a fascinating contrast between the strongly puritanical religious background and spiritual yearnings of Matthew and the chilling amorality of Sheila. As with all Jenkins's fiction, the book offers the reader a remarkable insight into the mindset of the displaced and lonely child and into the attraction between good and evil. Above all it is the ambivalence of the characters and story, which is so challenging. As ever, Jenkins's dialogue and lyrical narrative is a pleasure to read. This story will grip you until the final disturbing chapter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and moving 3 Jun 2008
At first I thought this book was one of the many lookalike gritty accounts of Scottish life. It's actually one of the best books I've read for a long time.

The lead character, Matthew, is a boy with a difficult life. His mother is dead and his father has disappeared to South America and never contacts him. Then a charismatic, manipulative girl, Sheila, begins to torment him with her disturbing stories of having committed murder. Is she troubled or truly evil? And when Matthew's father returns with a pregnant new wife, Matthew turns to Sheila for help...

The story ends ambiguously, and we're never sure quite what was really happening. The language is breathtakingly beautiful, and the depiction of Matthew's inner world unusual and interesting. Highly recommended, if a bit morbid.
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