- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Hodder Children's Books (3 Oct. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340944994
- ISBN-13: 978-0340944998
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Fire Eaters Paperback – 3 Oct 2013
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Continuing his tradition of strange and wild novels for young adults, David Almond, in The Fire Eaters, introduces a bizarre character making a sparse living as a self-mutilating, fire-swallowing street performer. McNulty's existence shakes young protagonist Bobby Burns to the core as he contemplates the end of the world (the year is 1962 and the US and Soviet Union seem to be heading toward nuclear war), power, pain, class and death, as well as friendship. The menace and sweetness in Bobby's life parallels the worlds, big and small, he inhabits. A loving family, seaside home and good friends form the foundation. But a crack in that wall is spreading: Bobby's father is ill, class differences are separating him from his best friend, and a ruthless schoolmaster is forcing Bobby to understand that everything has a price. McNulty's growled refrain--"Pay! You'll not see nowt till you pay!"--reiterates the lesson for the often bewildered, but ever stronger boy. Readers familiar with Almond's other haunting books, including the award-winning Skellig, will welcome this rich, challenging novel. As always, Almond refuses to shy away from the big topics, resulting in a novel dappled with light and dark, filled with wonder and mystery. --Emilie Coulter, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
An affecting meditation on pain, cruelty, class, belonging and the redeeming power of love. (The Sunday Times)
A beautiful and brilliant novel. There really is nobody quite like Almond. (The Times)
This is beautifully written and polished to a lapidary gloss. (The Guardian)
A wonderful novel. (The Times)
An astonishing, beautiful tale. Almond at his best. (The Daily Telegraph)
A tale so marvellously told it seems a shame to label it as only for children. (The Daily Telegraph)
Stays with you long after the book is closed. (The Guardian)
Almond makes familiar issues fresh; his characters are finely drawn and his depiction of place perfectly realised. (The Guardian)
Lyrical and atmospheric. (The Bookseller)
A near-perfect piece of fiction. (Time Out)
Luminous prose...every character is perfectly served by this fearless writer. (The Guardian)
Subtle and energetic...a powerful and evocative study of loss. (The Times)
[A] strange and haunting story. (The Observer)
Once in a while a book comes along that takes over your head and your heart. [This is] such a book. (The Bookseller)
Almond's best book yet...masterful in every aspect. (Financial Times)
Gripping doesn't do it justice - it sweeps you up and wraps itself around you. (The Sunday Express)
An uplifting, beautifully written story. (Independent on Sunday)
A beautifully written, warm-hearted book. Almond's poetic, though gritty, prose avoids the pitfalls of sentimentality. (The Observer)
Almond's books are always moving, uplifting tributes to the human spirit. (The Scotsman)
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Top Customer Reviews
This wonderful novel by David Almond, who is already well –known as the author of the ground breaking, Carnegie and Whitbread winning children’s novel “Skellig”, shows us the irrationality and unfairness of life in 1962 through the eyes of 11-year-old Bobby Burns as it takes us to Northern England to a world overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. What makes David Almond’s writing so special is his ability to view the world so clearly and dispassionately from a child’s point of view. He eschews any form of judgement keeping authorial comment completely absent as Bobby copes simultaneously with the cruelty of sadistic teachers and the possible death of his sick father but still has time to consider the plight of others as exemplified by the outsiders; Daniel the long haired intellectual’s son, McNulty the shell- shocked, hunchbacked fire eater and Ailsa the clever, motherless girl truanting to care for her father and brothers. Bobby is shown as a generous, credulous child who deals with all the inequalities of life calmly and objectively.
The cruelty and unfairness of the Catholic grammar school in the early sixties with the male leather strap wielding staff is shown with all the horror of a young child but what struck me most forcibly was young Bobby’s chosen willingness to be a martyr and fight the tyranny. There are echoes of Roald Dahl’s “Mathilda” in some of the scenes as the merciless black robed staff choose token victims at random to be publicly beaten.
An enjoyable, absorbing read from a multi award-winning author although “The Fire Eaters” is aimed at teenagers it is a book to be enjoyed by both teenagers and adults. It won the Nestles’ Smarties Gold Award and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year 2003 award.
The Rite of Passage we observe is that of all humanity as it totters on the brink - a multi-layered brink with elements of the political and the personal brilliantly exploited by Mr Almond to give a book not only accessible to young people but enjoyable to a more adult readership.
At the centre is the character of McNulty with his cry, "Pay!" He is the fire-eater and escapologist who illuminates, in a way worthy of Beckett, the condition of man at the end of a century of world conflict.
As a teacher of English I would recommend this to any of my students as a thought provoking text which will grip them from the first page. As a human being I am glad I read what is sure to become a classic.
The Fire Eater, of the title, is also an escapologist and war veteran. He makes his living as a street performer, dealing with his demons from the war by inflicting pain on himself. Meanwhile the whole of the Western world is consumed by fear of the War ships steaming towards Cuba in a showdown with the Russians (1962). Again the theme of fire haunts the reader, this time from nuclear explosion.
Closer to home, Bobby Burns spends time on his East Coast beach, trying to retain a normal life amongst the adults' tensions. When he joins the local Grammar School he finds the severe (excessive) discipline daunting. Meanwhile, his father seems to be suffering from some mysterious illness and no-one will let Bobby know what is happening. His two close friends, Ailsa and Jimmy keep him sane and the new boy from The South, Daniel, often helps him see things in a different light.
The characters were wonderful and the descriptions of the coastal world teemed with life. I had never heard of sea coal, which Ailsa and her family dragged from the sea for a living.
My only complaint about this book would be the excessive violence exhibited by the Fire Eater on himself, the thought of a skewer through from one cheek to the other made me cringe and could be quite upsetting for a sesitive child.
I was lucky enough to have the unabridged audio version, read by David Almond himself, although he has a very thick Northern accent that was a bit hard to comprehend at times. I am keeping my copy for another listen in the future and I will definitely look out for more by this author.
It really touched my heartstrings, and is the first Almond book I've read.
It's set in 1962 during the Cuban Missile and centers around the life of young Bobby Burns, an 11 year boy growing up on the East coast of England.
Bobby's life seems charmed - a perfect family, a loving mother and father and a community of friends who love and protect him - but things are changing.
Whilst the World teeters on the brink of Nuclear War Bobby's father has a mysterious illness, and life at his new Catholic school is cruel and viscious and unfair.
In the midst of all this is McNulty, the mysterious Fire breathing strongman who seems to be be fighting his own war against past demons.
Who is he, where does he come from and what does he want from Bobby?
Almond's writting is rich and multi-layered but with a lovely defness of touch.
He skillfully intermingles the personal battles of young Bobby and his family and friends with what happened during that tumultous year of 1962.
The end result never feals forced but instead is a convincing story that just oozes warmth and depth from page to page.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My daughter is really enjoying reading The Fire Eaters novel, they are actually doing there English at school about The Fire Eaters, it seems to be an interesting book. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Shirley O'hare
A wonderful read that has stayed with me. The imagery is is lovely and the story was gripping and poignant.Published 8 months ago by Mum of one
Almond’s novel offers a surprisingly complex insight into relationships between people and places and investigates the social importance of developing – and being allowed to... Read morePublished on 23 Nov. 2013 by Emily Morrison
I was impressed with the early delivery date, the secure packaging and the book itself, which was as described. Read morePublished on 4 Nov. 2013 by Amazon Customer
I wasn't consious of the impact of the bay of pigs across the world, this book is extraordinary and culminates in a night waiting for the world to end, but that's a back drop,... Read morePublished on 28 Nov. 2011 by Stephen Cronin
I read this over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Reminiscent of the children's books and stories I read as a child myself, the writing style is simplistic but deeply... Read morePublished on 26 Sept. 2011 by Angela
I forgot how easy David Almond's writing style is, I haven't read one of his books for a while. This story flows from the beginning and captures the characters well. Read morePublished on 19 July 2011 by Mr. R. N. Lock
David Almond is a glorious writer who never disappoints with his prose. This book is no exception. Telling the story of Bobby, a young boy, living in the ramshackle seaside town... Read morePublished on 1 Jan. 2011 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
I'm 15 Years Old - and the closest thing you will ever find to an expert on all major fictional spy series ever published in English, From James Bond - to Cherub and... Read more