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4.5 out of 5 stars57
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 August 2012
The first thing I noticed about this author is her incredible talent for rendering conversations. In fact her narrative is so dialogue-driven that her protagonist often has spirited and convincing exchanges with his inner self. Although written before 1949, the writing has a timeless quality, a very modern tightness, and I found the style very "easy on the ears" and thoroughly enjoyable. This book is unusual in that it draws the reader inside the story and invites you to unlock the mystery. The plot's plausibility is heavily dependent on a couple of unique coincidences but, once you accept the premise, everything else follows. In fact, for me the precariousness of the situation adds tension and, although the ending was not a huge surprise, the way all the loose ends are tied up is very satisfying.

Josephine Tey has deftly created some very likeable but complex characters: Brat is at once tough and vulnerable, an opportunist with a conscience. Simon is charming and cast as the victim but full of contradictions. Aunt Bee is typical of a generation of war-time women who had to be strong and unselfish for the sake of others. Each of the main characters is believably human, annoying at times, but always engaging. This book is perfectly suited for all ages, there is no gore, bad language, gratuitous sex or unsettling content and the adult subjects are masterfully handled. And, finally, horse enthusiasts will be happy to find that the substantial equestrian content is accurate and realistic and Tey's undisguised love of horses comes entirely devoid of saccharine.
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0Comment11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 September 1998
Brat Farrar has everything a mystery should: a carefully-constructed plot, well-hidden but available clues, and an ending that wraps everything up without resorting to deux ex machina. The build-up to the "creation" of Pat Ashby -- the character the protagonist assumes in order to inherit an English estate -- is so thoughtfully described and developed, it was later referred to by Mary Stewart as the basis for her own character's deception in "The Ivy Tree."
All of these lead to a good mystery; what makes it a great mystery is the plethora of believable characters. The reader is invited to be part of a charming English village and becomes the champion of Brat as he works his way through a complicated identical-twin relationship to solve the hidden-secrets mystery in the end.
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on 5 April 1999
One of greatest tragedies in the world of mysteries is that Josephine Tey wrote so few. I've loved this book ever since I was a girl and found it on the shelf of my parent's library.
The book is populated by a number of likeable, believable characters (even the unlikeable characters are believable). The reader is compelled to keep reading by the interesting plot that keeps reveals new aspects of the story without seeming at all contrived.
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on 7 March 2002
A curious kind of detective story, with no detective for start. It's a lot more psychological than some of Josephine Tey's other books. It tells the story of a scam to win an inheritance which turns into a murder mystery, all within the understated, distinctly stiff-upper-lip confines of a horse-mad English family. I got a bit tired of the horses to be honest, but the characters are fascinating and their emotional complications convincing. Definitely worth a read.
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on 29 May 2013
I first read Brat Farrar in my teens and have been rereading it ever since every couple of years. In fact, I've read it so often that my copy has fallen to pieces, which is why I bought the Kindle edition. It's the story of a young man who inveigles himself into a loving family by pretending to be a long-lost child. Brat has been put up to the imposture by a ne'er-do-well connection of the family because he looks so much like the now grown-up twin of the missing boy. But instead of portraying Brat as a conniving money-grubber, Josephine Tey presents him as a boy with an unhappy and chequered past who falls in love with "his" family, most of whom share his passion for horses. The family has also known tragedy - as well as losing the child, Patrick, the children's parents are dead; Simon, Patrick's twin, Eleanor, and another, much younger set of twins, Jane and Ruth, live in their parents' house with Aunt Bea and try to make enough money from horses to keep the family and the estate together. At first, Brat must convince everyone who ever knew the child that he is Patrick. But soon, he senses something sinister about the disappearance, and becomes Patrick's champion. The characters are drawn with depth and truth and the reader comes to care passionately about what's going to happen to them all. Although it was written in 1950, the book has worn well and does not read like a period piece.
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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2009
Before picking up this novel I never expected that I would read it in one sitting. It is tremendous. Already worthy of a re-read, worthy of extensive study that made me realise it should be used as a school set text on a par with novels such as 'A Kestrel for a Knave'.

The main premise is similar to 'The Return of Martin Guerre' or 'Sommersby' except the returning soul is the teenager Brat coming home to a farm in the idyllic Sussex Downs. His twin knows from the start that Brat is fake but they agree an unholy 'spiritual twinship' of silence for mutual protection as everyone else accepts Brat to their bosom.

The writing is sublime evoking dreamy, idyllic post-War rural England compared to the 'forest of chimney pots' in London. Ms Tey writes succinctly and with wit. She displays topicality and constructs convincing relationships. There are some underlying adult themes which would have been risque in the late 1940's and do make it a novel for teenagers and adults.

This book was the classic case of expecting so little and being unexpectedly overwhelmed by its sheer quality.
11 comment3 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
One of my favourite ever books is 'The Franchise Affair' and if you like the way Josephine Tey writes or if you're considering dipping a toe into her water (as it were!), I'd highly recommend that one too. Both 'The Franchise Affair' and 'Brat Farrar' are detective stories with no detective and very cleverly written too. In 'Brat Farrar' the eponymous hero is hired by an ageing actor to impersonate the heir to an estate who went missing, presumed drowned, eight years before. The actor wants Brat to pay him some of the money he will inherit so that the actor can retire comfortably off.
The problems that Brat has to overcome seem formidable; a close family including a twin brother being one of the most difficult and a whole village and countryside full of people who had known the missing boy from a baby. Brat would have to convince them all that he is the missing boy and if he can convince them, he will cut his 'twin brother' out of the inheritance that he's been looking forward to all these years.
Tey takes a long time to build up the story; introducing all the characters, giving background and interesting 'side-stories' on them all, describing the estate Brat finds himself inheriting and the horse-breeding and riding business that goes with it.
I find it fascinating that the reader knows right from the start that the imposter is just that, an imposter and think that, in these cases, the fascination comes with seeing how long he or she can keep up the pretence and what happens when he or she is caught out finally.
However, this is one of the best of that genre; the characters are believeable and likeable and I really wanted Brat to succeed and be happy in his stolen life. However, the author has a very unexpected twist up her sleeve - stick with the story because the twist doesn't appear until the final 1/3 of the book and it's well worth waiting for (although I have just noticed that a fairly hefty clue is cunningly planted very early on!). I won't give any spoilers but it all ends happily for some and unhappily for others and is both narratively and emotionally satisfying.
One fascinating side issue is how language has changed since Tey wrote this in 1949 - a packed lunch is called a 'piece' and of course no-one then had mobile phones or computers and Tey seems to have been a advocate of orphanages ... Also this is a time before DNA testing, which would have very swiftly proved that Brat Farrar wasn't the missing heir and also who he actually is (which is just as interesting!). The whole story would have been cut off before it started - technology has a lot to answer for!
Obtain this book and then read all the others she wrote - you won't regret it!
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on 6 January 2014
This is my third Josephine Tey novel after The Franchise Affair and The Daughter of Time. It's a very unusual plot concerning an imposter that the reader knows is an imposter from the off. So the mystery is whether he will be able to carry it off and at what cost, and whether the family will forgive him if he is ever exposed. There is a twist which is easy enough to spot early on but the detail of the how and why keep the plot going.
So this is a mystery with the protagonist (Brat) committing a crime from the first pages, no detective or police being involved(except in passing at the very end) and the tension revolving around Brat and the antagonist (his supposed brother).
The characterisation is excellent, especially around Simon,Eleanor ,and Aunt Bee.
I did find the book quite inaccessible to start with, because the premise is so unusual, and before the characters became filled out. Of course the impostor story simply could not work today with the advent of DNA, and you have to believe the rather stilted social circles which the novel is set in.
The second half worked rather better than the first half for me.
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on 3 January 2014
This is a deceptively modern-sounding story with good character development, strong writing and an interesting plot (if you go along with the slightly far-fetched premise but then in war-time Britain, such a convenient incident might have really taken place). I really liked the protagonist, Brat Farrar, a young man who has had a tough life and few opportunities. Horses are his passion and, when the chance presents itself to step into a life where horses will feature large, he finds the lure too much to resist. His courage and determination make him a strong character and his underlying morality endear him to us, despite his conflicts and contradictions. The other main characters are variously likeable. Aunt Bee, Eleanor, the twins, even Simon, are all deftly drawn with all their flaws, strengths and complexities. In the end, I was happy to see everything neatly wrapped and explained, although the mystery was not too difficult to solve.

What makes this book such a delight to read is the quality of the dialogue, which is spirited, fresh and totally believable. Recommended reading for any age group.
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on 15 December 1998
Large parts of the story and most of the characterisation are driven by dialogue, and what beautifull, vivid and often funny dialogue it is! That these people come so much to life and become so lovable is entirely due to what they say and their many personal ways of saying it. One should only read the breakfast-conversation that opens the book and puts the reader right into the house and into the story.Great stuff that many mystery- writers can only hope to rival.
0Comment7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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