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The Godless Boys Paperback – 1 Apr 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330530127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330530125
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.6 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 607,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'She writes quite beautifully, carrying one irresistibly through to a world in which Richard Dawkins has become a bovver boy and the Church is in charge of the country.' --Giles Foden

'The comforts of faith, the terrors of extremism, the loneliness of not believing anything at all: these are the aggressively modern tensions that pierce Wood's novel . . . it's a richly conceived debut' --Metro

`Whoever said religion and politics shouldn't be discussed at dinner parties might need to think again, as this tale of faith and power from a young British writer is bound to get tables talking . . . An exploration of gang terror with whispers of A Clockwork Orange and a nod to Lord of the Flies, the novel also has shades of 2006's film This is England. But it's the surprising tenderness and cliché-free sentimentality that sets this story apart. Vibrant and evocative language give a tangible bitterness to this sharp story about lives saved, and doomed, by religious faith.' --Book of the Week, Stylist

`The comforts of faith, the terrors of extremism, the loneliness of not believing anything at all: these are the aggressively modern tensions that pierce Wood's novel . . . it's a richly conceived debut' --Metro

'Wood's use of language is deft and ambitious. . . Wood is only twenty-seven yet her writing already has distinction.' --Literary Review

'Wood's Island, a dank environment of anaemic despair, is compelling, though more fey than feral; the story constructed as a parable of betrayal and wonder.' --Guardian

'Wood has skillfully woven into the larger dramatic context of the narrative itself, a mix of incident, commentary, and dialogue which allows her to avoid any ungainly or plot-stopping summary of information. A readable and engaging debut, The Godless Boys marks Naomi Woods as a writer of talent and promise' --Irish Examiner

From the Back Cover

'A tender, brutal tale focusing on God, love and violence' Grazia

'Vibrant and evocative' Stylist

'Assured, involving . . . richly imagined' Independent

Imagine an alternative England, where the Church controls the country and non-believers have been exiled to a remote island.

On the Island, a fierce group of boys patrols the community, searching for signs of faith and punishing any believers. When a new girl appears, arriving from the mainland to search for her long-lost mother, the gang is split: one boy falls in love with her, another seeks violent revenge. The struggle between them will change everything . . .

'Gripping, well-crafted . . . an impressive debut' Observer

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cat R VINE VOICE on 27 July 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In a Britain where the Church has seized absolute control of the country, members of the Secular Movement have been exiled to The Island, where religion is banned. Any outward expression of religion - praying, owning a Bible, even visiting the Island's abandoned church - is punished harshly by a gang of boys wanting to keep their Island pure.

This summary reads like a dystopian future, but the novel is actually set in the near past - 1986. In a way, this makes the novel resonate more clearly - it's all too easy to get detatched from dystopian novels and say "that could never happen to us!", whereas the political situation in The Godless Boys feels entirely plausible.

All of that is, of course, just a backdrop for the actual story, which involves two boys attempting to grow up, a girl seeking her mother, and the relationships between those three. Love, betrayal, faith, forgiveness, and fear all play a part in this book.

The concept of secularism becoming as dogmatic in its own way as religion is hardly a new one, but this novel is well-crafted, with several different POV narrators intertwined in a gripping narrative. There are some very sad moments, characters, and relationships explored - it's not a novel that's going to leave you with a smile on your face, as too much has been lost.

But the overall message, of the danger of holding onto grudges and absolute belief, is tentatively hopeful. An excellent debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ericmitford on 26 April 2012
Format: Paperback
There are enough good ideas in this book for one twice its length, but Naomi Wood has wisely left the reader to think them through and has concentrated on writing a story that packs a punch.

One clever idea has been to write a futuristic book set in 1986, which is akin to firt reading Orwell's `1984' only now that date is behind us. But for all the dystopian feel, and the nods to the `droogs' in Anthony Burgess's `A Clockwork Orange' and their use of slang, there's as much of `Under Milk Wood' here. The creepy teenage gang, shaven-headed and kitted out like Morris-dancing members of the National Front, has given itself the mission of preventing backsliding towards God by the islands' secular inhabitants, deported there after a campaign of church-burning on mainland England. But most of the other characters and their lives read more like Polly Garter, Dai Bread and the rest. Thuggery and naivete here make for an unsettling mix.

The `Troubles' of recent Northern Irish history are also present, visible in the policies of internment and segregation on religious grounds used by the God-fearing majority in control of England, and in references to a Sunday Agreement whereby imprisoned secularists can regain their freedom. The quality of writing is excellent, never better than when the elderly John Verger, who took part in the burning of the island's church on his arrival in the first wave of deportees, rediscovers his faith; the state of grace receives an advocacy that is truly moving.

All this, and time for a coherent and exciting story too, which other reviewers have outlined. No easy resolutions in the final pages, either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AR VINE VOICE on 8 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An interesting premise for a novel - set in a recent alternative past where England is a strictly religious society, which persecutes those who choose not to belong to the Christian faith. After a rebellion begins, and Church bombings become commonplace, many non-religious people are exiled to a remote place known only as 'The Island', where they live simple and hard lives, in thrall to the sea, which separates them from the mainland and swallows many of their fishermen, whilst providing their main source of food. A teenage girl, Sarah, arrives secretly to search for her mother, once convicted of bombing a Church. But her arrival stirs up trouble between the leaders of the teenage gang who threaten the islanders and their way of life.

The basic concept of this novel is fascinating, and yet very simple. It is a timely idea, but the author never really explores it beyond the basic set-up. I would have liked to know more about how the Chruch came to rule England so strictly, and about the motives of some of the characters.

The island setting is very bleak, and the author describes it well. The bleak, tragic air permeates the story, leaving the feeling that this isn't a tale that will have a happy ending. Normally I don't mind a tragic story, especially one that is intelligent and well written, as this is. But something about the book left me with an uncomfortable feeling, and I have to admit I didn't enjoy it that much. There is little light in this story, and a lot of heavy, depressing situations and unpleasant characters.

Being from North East England, as the author is, I did enjoy the references to locations in the area, such as Berwick and Trimdon.

From the reviews here I can see that most people rate this book very highly, and I can understand why. Unfortunately, it wasn't really for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Reardon on 23 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
If measured by church attendance and similar statistics Britain is one of the least religious and most secular societies on the planet. The notion of this country turning into an Iranian style theocracy run by a militant Church of England is quite unimaginable. Yet that's essentially the background to Wood's novel, which is set in an alternative England of 1986. From what I can gather a fundamentalist Church of England runs the country (which is always described as England and never Britain, so maybe the Scots and Welsh have upped and left in this alternative universe, or never were in the first place).

I found the alternative universe of The Godless Boys fascinating because sometimes a single person or event can change the entire course of history. What happened to make England a theocracy? It's interesting to speculate but Woods doesn't go deeper, which is a shame. The story of the expulsions draws on tactics used by UK governments in our own time, most notably in Northern Ireland, including internment, something called the Sunday Agreement designed to bring a peace process of sorts, and so on.

The Godless Boys has been published by coincidence at the same time as the first English language production of Ibsen's Emperor and Galilean at the National Theatre in London. This tells the story of how the Emperor Constantine saw Christianity as a threat and co-opted it into the Roman state religion. Therefore what was a small, radical sect that challenged the very notion of hierarchy, wealth and power, speaking very clearly for the dispossessed, became instead, formally at least, part of the state and has remained so ever since. Almost as good as Sarah Hall's outstanding The Carhullan Army.
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