Customer Reviews


118 Reviews
5 star:
 (82)
4 star:
 (21)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Godless Boys
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...
Published on 27 July 2011 by Cat R

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling idea, but a bleak story
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...
Published on 8 Jan. 2012 by AR


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Godless Boys, 27 July 2011
By 
Cat R - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and violence among the offshore arsonists, 26 April 2012
This review is from: The Godless Boys (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling idea, but a bleak story, 8 Jan. 2012
By 
AR (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England as an Iranian theocracy, 23 Aug. 2011
By 
This review is from: The Godless Boys (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Potentially brilliant, but not there yet?, 20 July 2012
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
I loved the ideas and the writing in this book, but somehow it felt a bit flat. I've had trouble working out why, but come to the conclusion that, although you could describe it as a kind of dystopian realism, it isn't quite 'real' enough. The characters seemed to go through the motions of the plot without doing any of the things that real humans, particularly freedom fighters or colonisers, do (e.g. surely a black market in meat is a possibility), and I would have liked there to be more background about the setup on the island - for example how do some people get by with no work when others need to take desperate measures to survive? (Saying that, Eliza's character didn't give me any sense of desperation despite her situation). Perhaps this is intentionally done, to demonstrate the apathy of a remote, post-revolutionary community, but it didn't really ring true to me. I think it would have worked better if it had been either more gritty in the minutiae, or maybe deliberately hyper-real (cf The Book of Dave). But I think the author is definitely one to watch.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seven days of change and consequence, 17 April 2011
By 
Mr. J. C. Clubb "byshee" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in an alternative history where England is ruled by the Church and the secularist community has been banished to a solitary island, Naomi Wood's debut novel, "The Godless Boys", is a story about a dramatic week on the island. Nathaniel, the son of an original member of the secular movement, leads a gang of teenage boys, the Malades, who are determined to protect the island from any religious influence. This means intimidating potential "gots" and prowling the streets at night. Eliza Michalka lives a sorry existence on the island - a part-time prostitute and a part-time undertaker who drops corpses into the surrounding ocean - she pines after her lost love, the aloof fishmonger Arthur Stansky. However, this week all their lives will be changed when Sarah, daughter of 1976 church-burner, Laura Wicks, stows away to seek out her mother on The Island...

We are living in a time that has seen the rise of fundamental religiosity and New Atheism. Therefore it isn't difficult to see where the author's inspiration came from. Why she decided to set it in 1986 is another matter altogether. There is little in the way of obvious parallels with the real 1986, but I guess it helps to keep matters simple without the presence of the internet and the normalcy of mobile phones. The whole book is markedly minimalistic without being pretentious. This is perhaps reflective of the two radically opposing philosophies that form the backdrop of the story.

Wood does not explore the details of either the Christian dogma that now rules England or the strict secularist movement of The Island. Two vital dates are given for when secularists, usually involved in anti-religious activity such as church burning, were deported - 1951 and 1976 - and we are given an overview of the violent struggles between the state and rebels, but otherwise the history of the whole conflict is kept down to a minimum. Likewise aside from Christian imagery and the hatred certain characters, such as Nathaniel's Malades, have towards religion, there are little intricate details regarding what each side actually believes. Despite one newspaper critic describing The Malades as Richard Dawkins in bovver boots, there is nothing whatsoever mentioned regarding a scientific argument against the Christians. The Secular Movement's problems with the church are never lain out or described. Therefore, this could be a story about any society divided into polarized factions.

This leaves the story to be entirely character-driven and concerned with the relationships its players experience over seven days. One man, an ardent first generation secularist, will re-evaluate his relationship with God. Nathaniel will be made to reconsider his devotion to The Malades. Arthur and Eliza will have to look at the personal defensive walls they have created. However, the driving force for change in all of this - the story's catalyst - is Sarah. She enters having already received a revelation after 10 years not knowing her mother had been arrested for being involving a Secular Movement terrorist attack. Although the story follows her fact-seeking mission, she seems to be the only character that isn't experiencing personal changes in her attitude, having already gone through a dramatic personal crisis.

Despite some of its adult content, "The Godless Boys" reminds me of the typical sort of material read for GCSE English. This is not a slight on its simplicity, but I think there might be a lot teenagers can relate to in the text. "The Godless Boys" is also a story about consequences and the way different individuals react to dramatic changes. Nathaniel is a part of his tragic father's legacy, but little does he realize he is leaving a legacy of his own in The Malades. His personal philosophy and beliefs have their own consequences. Wood succeeds in getting this across, providing certain moral twists reminiscent of David McKenna's "American History X" that provokes a lot of thought.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Creative, imaginative and thoughtful, 18 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
There are some books which get loads of hype, then you read them and think `why? What was all the fuss about?' Other books slip onto bookshop shelves with a minimum of fanfare and turn out to be gems. 'The Godless Boys', by Naomi Wood, falls firmly into the latter category.

Set in an imagined alternative Britain in 1986, it is creative, imaginative and very thoughtful.

In this other Britain, the Church runs the country and non-believers have been banished to an island just off the coast. The action takes place on this island, whose inhabitants' lives are as bleak and barren as the landscape.

It is a love story, a story of hope and despair, a story of ordinary people defeated by loss, and a story about deciding what really matters.

While faith isn't the central focus of the book - in some ways it is just a device to create a closed situation within which to examine human behaviour - questions about God are handled with simple simplicity. Grace, forgiveness, freedom, authority, hope and doubt are all touched upon in ways that feel very believable.

It takes great skill to present a viewpoint that is opposite to your own with authenticity and empathy. Naomi has done it masterfully. One might almost imagine she knew God as a friend herself, but I know from talking to her at a reading that that is not the case.

Naomi has constructed a great story, her writing is restrained and elegant, and her characters are believable and, if not exactly likeable, they are certainly people you hope to see succeed.

It's not a cosy, beach read, but if you're looking for some good autumn reading, curled up in front of the fire, I highly recommend 'The Godless Boys', and eagerly anticipate Naomi's next book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive debut, 12 May 2011
By 
Sukie (South Coast) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in a parallel England where the Church has power and non-believers are the enemy, this is an assured and imaginative debut novel. The action takes place on an island, where members of the Secular Movement have been exiled in a settlement (population: 1500) for many years. A single boat comes once a week to bring them meagre supplies but other than that, they have no communication with the mother country.

I loved this concept and Wood explores the island mentality skilfully. The 'godless boys' of the title are the gang run by Nathaniel, although his secondary, Jake, is jockeying for power. They are determined to root out any English spies or 'Gots' (believers in God) and stir up feelings of paranoia and unrest on the island with their increasingly violent behaviour. Then an English girl, Sarah, arrives on the island having stowed away on the boat from the mainland. She is searching for her mother, Laura, who was involved with a church bombing ten years earlier - but finds herself caught up in the power-play between the boys...

What I loved most about this book was Wood's beautiful, rich description - the quality of her writing is spell-binding at times, particularly when she describes a character or the island. I also loved how well she'd thought out the island setting - the islanders' paranoia about 'their blood' and fear of anaemia, and their rituals, such as the burial ceremony.

It's not a perfect book - I found the dialogue clunking at times, and the middle of the book sagged slightly with a few too many scenes of characters recounting to other characters incidents the reader already knew about. The penultimate scene, for me, was on the verge of sliding into melodrama too.
Overall, though, this is an impressive debut and worth all the plaudits. I'm already looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars It's the fabular quality of The Godless Boys that I like most, 7 May 2011
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
It's interesting that some reviewers think The Godless Boys is a book for teenagers. Of course, some of the main protagonists are young but then so are all the characters in Lord of the Flies, another fable that explores violence, jealousy, exile and the failure of faith. I think it is the fabular quality of The Godless Boys that I like most: the formal arrangement of the relationships between Sarah and Nathaniel and Eliza and Arthur, the mythic quality of the sea, its treacherous currents, and of water generally. It reminded me of Hardy in the turn and turn about of each of the characters' exposure to the fateful twists and turns of the plot. And the heroine is red haired like any doomed, turn of the century beauty (the Pre-Raphaelites, Munch, any number of weirdy Germano legends). Yes, there is rather a lot of exposition but then there are magical scenes like Sarah playfully teasing Nathaniel on a beach or old Verger finding redemption in the ruined church - these are beautifully written. The end of the novel is genuinely shocking and makes you reevaluate your reading experience even as you close the book. I guess it is only at that point you realise how powerfully you have been caught up in the story's fragile hopes - appropriately personnified in its frail, young protagonists - and how powerfully bleak it really is. I strongly recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love in a Secularist Society, 31 Mar. 2011
By 
C. Hawkes "Livefats" (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Godless Boys (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
England, 1976. The country in schism between fundamentalist Christianity and a secularist minority. Firebombing, violence on the streets.

England, 1986: the Church in control of the state, and the atheistic deported to The Island, where a violently secularist gang of boys, the Malades, take action against anyone suspected of religious observance. Into this context put an English girl, Sarah Wicks, who has smuggled herself onto The Island to find her mother.

This is the explosive premise of Naomi Wood's first novel, The Godless Boys. It has been called "dystopic" and compared to Burgess's Clockwork Orange, but this is to do it a disservice - those approaching The Godless Boys hoping for this type of novel will be disappointed. Although the Malades might on the surface be reminiscent of Alex and his droogs, Naomi Woods' Island is not a dystopia: the issues she deals with are not societal but instead personal and emotional. If I had to make a comparison, I might choose Graham Green's Brighton Rock, which also explores human relationships against a background of incipient violence - but I'd rather view this novel on its own terms.

Naomi Woods' characters are well drawn and believable, especially the central triad of Sarah, Eliza and Nathaniel, and her prose poetic and effective. She has conjured an utterly believable alternate reality, and used it to highlight important questions about love and Faith, and whether one can exist without the other. There are no easy answers in this novel, any more than there are in life: but this is a compelling read that is human, honest and philosophic, and one that will beg to be reread.

I heartily recommend The Godless Boys as a "good read" and on its literary merits. I look forward eagerly to reading Naomi Woods' next novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Godless Boys
The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood (Paperback - 1 April 2011)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews