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The Illumination of Merton Browne [Kindle Edition]

J M Shaw
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: £5.49 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

When he wants to get away from things, away from his mum and Uncle Tuck, away from the shouting and the sound of the TV, Merton Browne hides in his cupboard with a torch and a Tintin book and pretends he's going to space.

As he gets older things don't change much. He thinks secondary school will be about learning, but mainly it's about staying out of trouble. Disenchanted and desperate to avoid the attentions of Savage and his posse, Merton finds refuge among the forgotten history books in a dusty basement, remnants of another regime.

Inspired by what he reads he comes up with a plan to earn protection for him and his friend, and soon finds himself appointed consigliere by Savage's increasingly ambitious gang. Fifteen and fired up by the discovery of sex, drugs and power, Merton is convinced he's on the brink of causing a revolution. But the repercussions of one night present Merton with a choice. He needs to decide who he is, who he wants to be and where his loyalties lie.

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Product Description


'As soon as you read the first page you're gripped by the voice...a state-of-the-nation novel...a very tough, unflinching look at what life is like today...but there's also an incredible amount of hope' (Boyd Hilton, Simon Mayo Show, Radio 5)

'Merton has a distinctive voice - edgy, sharp and avid for adventure...His inner struggle to abandon his self-destructive path and become responsible for his own life makes for a gripping read.' (Daily Mail)

'A vivid, sometimes shocking novel...which combines a fast-moving narrative with an incisive, satirical critique of comprehensive education.' (Piers Paul Read, Spectator , Books of the Year)

'A truly insightful and thought-provoking read.' (Big Issue)

'Explosive...disturbingly realistic' (Guardian)

'Visceral, tough and original' (Tim Lott)

Book Description

A powerful and disturbing first novel about growing up and the power of education to distort, transform and illuminate

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 740 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (12 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007KLK7J6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #633,278 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

JM Shaw lives in Bath. His first novel, THE ILLUMINATION OF MERTON BROWNE, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Award.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book about a boy (Merton Browne) from a tough and deprived estate, who enters his secondary comp subconsciously hoping that education might lead him away from his disfunctional family and sink estate. Merton is a very clever boy whose energies are syphoned off into both learning on his own in a secret place under the school and being the brains behind the local gang on the estate....

There are moments in the book of huge suspense and drama. There are wonderful cameos of his headteacher, his friend's evangelical Caribbean mum, Merton's tutor and his mother.

I could not put it down; Merton as a character is superb and you immediately ( and I obsessively) get drawn into his world from the start.

As well as being a great story it has strong social message: ranging from the importance of thorough education, of well disciplined schools, of the need for fathers in the lives of their children etc...

I urge you to buy it will not be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I read this book almost in a single sitting. It is completely gripping. It is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who grows up surrounded by violence and ignorance, both at home and at school.

On the face of it, Merton doesn't have much hope, but he's got a strong desire to discover the truth and he manages to find an escape in the world of books - poetry, history and literature - which give him a different perspective on the world around him.

You follow him through his big dilemma of whether to go for the dubious glamour of life in a gang or whether to take a different path, one that forces him to push himself to the limits. You are with him all the way.

Merton's character is likeable and engaging, and the writing and observations are sharp and often witty. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is simultaneously an exciting, very well-made tale and a splendid novel of ideas. You cheer for, and fear for, its teenaged protagonist, whose story is riveting, and in a more leisurely way you will mull over the intricacies and ironies of Shaw's vision of modern state-sector education. There are some marvelous tricks here--Merton makes brilliant and terrible mistakes about the world, as do a number of the people he encounters, and Shaw's political sympathies are never simple-minded. The book is at times brutal, always very clever, and passionate about something very much worth caring about: the perversities of some dominant educational ideals and practices, and the fate of people caught in it. Very few novels of ideas are this well crafted as pure stories, and almost no stories as gripping as this one have such a freight of serious ideas. I loved this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! 30 Aug. 2007
By Emma
This is a terrific story, speedily told, which takes you into a murky world from a lateral point of view. It is a revelation, turning assumptions on their head and leading to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. If only all essential messages of truth for our society could be told so entertainingly. Read and enjoy! I am already looking forward to his next book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great New Writer 24 Aug. 2007
Like the other reviewers and also people to whom I have lent this book, I could not put it down. Started 10 pm finished 6 am. This book also has in my own and others opinion the strongest first seven lines in contemporary English.

The story is a highly original venture in social realism, with some elements of Martin Amis but in fundamental difference from most of this literature, it has the feature that as you read along you don't know whether it is going to have a happy ending, although you see that it may.

The story is accurately described by both the preceding reviewers. It is the story of a boy from a typically deprived and messed up home going through the state secondary education system in a manner that has two key features. First the description of rough life and terrible language is deeply authentic (how do I know? - because I do) Along the line he gets involved with gangs, guns and the courts, yet he ends up as a student at Cambridge.
Second the way the hero gets out of his basic situation is original and exciting. By accident he finds a hidden basement containing a complete old-fashioned school library, which has been put aside in favour of a new library. "Our library in the main block was full of CD Roms and videos. The real library - the old one, all the stuff nobody read any more- had been dumped down here." He finds ways to spend hours in the place, both for study and protection. On this find, in various ways, he builds his future.
Finally, this book is a sure success because both dialogue and soliloqy text are outstanding. A natural born writer.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh and Exciting Novel 24 Aug. 2007
This book really surprised me. It's a coming of age story about a boy from desperate familial and socioeconomic circumstances, and a bit reminiscent of tales told by authors from C. Dickens to S. E. Hinton--but the author's understanding of Merton's situation avoids both sentimentality and knee-jerk sociology. It's a page-turner full of memorable action scenes, but it makes you rethink some of the ideological "givens" of our time about the importance of family (not very great, perhaps, if your family is hurting you) and education (kind of totalitarian, actually, if your school won't let you choose your own books and ask critical questions). Merton is pretty much an autodidact, but all of his reading doesn't prevent him from making the mistakes that tragically bedevil so many kids in his circumstances, so he's never too good or bad, and he knows you need to find good teachers. But he's not that ordinary, either. He's a new kind of juvenile hero, neither Oliver Twist nor Holden Caulfield. Grittier and more truthful than Harry Potter, and Merton's wizardry is available to humans--adolescents and grown-ups--willing to read and think.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Addictive
A truly inspiring story for all underprivileged children out there. Exploring gangs, drugs and violence, Shaw gives a brilliant but striking insight on the estates of London and... Read more
Published on 29 Jun. 2012 by Yana
4.0 out of 5 stars The old man recognised me right away.
From the opening sentence this book is a compulsive and deliberately shocking read. It tells the story of one kid from an inner-city nightmare home who escapes his no-hoper destiny... Read more
Published on 9 July 2010 by Eileen Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars a modern pygmalion/cinderella-fantasy
A gripping and easy read, but with a shallow and highly predictable ending. It starts off well but dissolves into ridiculous fantasy with a highly unconvincing, happy-ending. Read more
Published on 7 Aug. 2008 by Ka Sutton
5.0 out of 5 stars This book descibes the effects of the destruction of schools since WW2
This book is accurate and yet discouraging in its description of the effects of the totalitarian comprehensive system in destroying the curriculum and undermining the the hopes of... Read more
Published on 21 Jan. 2008 by Saper Vedere
2.0 out of 5 stars Close but no cigar
I was very impressed by the start of this book but as it progresed I found my interest waning as it became more and more unrealistic. Read more
Published on 9 Dec. 2007 by W. A. Burt
2.0 out of 5 stars Realism stretched to the limits
I bought the book after hearing some interesting reviews on the radio. I was disappointed. I found the book filled with stereotypes. Read more
Published on 26 Aug. 2007 by Dan the Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Slick&smart
Wow! This is an awesome page-turner, impossible to stop reading! On the one hand it's a thrilling story of school boys who graduate from bullies to gangsters on the bullet-ridden... Read more
Published on 15 Aug. 2007 by Nigel
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