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4.8 out of 5 stars28
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 23 October 1998
This is an autobiography about Behan's teenage years before and during World War 2, which he spent in a British borstal serving a sentence for IRA membership. I really enjoyed this book which works on more than one level. It is really entertaining - some of the characterisations and turns of phrase are hilarious. It's also a great book about growing up and getting to know yourself. The setting is just a starting point - he shows how he forms friendships with people he thought were his enemies and how he confronts his own prejudices. Don't be put off by what might seem a narrow subject area, because the way Behan tells his own story makes it of universal interest.
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on 2 December 2003
Although this book was written some years ago, its sentiments still ring through. Captures beautifully the state of mind of a confused young man who genuinly believed all he had been taught by his anti-anglo grandmother. Beautifully written and very touching autobiographical account of the authors early life. A pity he failed to learn from many of the mistakes he made and went on to lead an eventful but ultimately tragic life. Highly recommended. Very funny and at times very sad and touching. Will strike a cord with many people who have found themselves in extreme situations having to survive alone.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 January 2015
A wonderful book and far better than I was expecting. I was inspired to pick up Borstal Boy having come across a reference to it in (the marvellous)Handsome Brute: The Story of a Ladykiller. Neville Heath, a once infamous 1940s British murderer, was incarcerated with Brendan Behan at Hollesley Bay borstal in Suffolk

Brendan Behan was arrested in Liverpool, aged sixteen, with explosives and the intention of blowing up the Liverpool dock. The first section of the book covers his period on remand in Walton prison near Liverpool. Needless to say the prison officers and many of the prisoners were very hostile to an IRA man arrested with the intention of planting a bomb. This was a dangerous time for Brendan Behan however his stoicism, guile and humour helped him to deal with this challenging period.

Once sentenced, and after a period at Feltham, Brendan Behan had the good fortune to arrive at Hollesley Bay where he made many good friends, and where the enlightened approach of Cyril Joyce, "the Squire" (Prison Governor) allowed the boys to work and flourish in a constructive environment. This section is the heart of the book. Brendan Behan's hard line republicanism softens as he discovers how much common ground he shares with his working class friends.

Brendan Behan's descriptions of the various characters he encounters throughout his imprisonment, and the humour and humanity he describes, is compelling. The description of his attitudes, and the attitudes of those around him, is very interesting and revealing. It's an illuminating insight into prison conditions during the late 1930/early 1940s and full of humour, humanity and occasional horror.

Overall it's a very enjoyable and uplifting book, which is testimony to Brendan Behan's personality and his skill as a writer.

5/5
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on 8 May 2013
This book was given to me when I was in my early twenties with the proviso that when I'd finished it I must pass it on. The copy was a 60's Pan paperback - its pages were dog-eared, its spine was broken, the body of the text had fallen into three parts (attempts had been made to hold it together with sticky tape). This was a many times read volume.
I kept my part of the bargain and passed it on after I had read it. I know that the friend I gave it to also passed it on. How many more people were able to read it before it finally fell to bits I know not.
I can't think of a higher reccomendation for a text.
However - one word of warning. This is the (true) story of a teenage IRA Volunteer who came to mainland Britain to engineer an atrocity. This might put off certain readers in the United Kingdom and, given the current political climate and fear of international terrorism, elsewhere in the world.
Its an important caveat for terrorism is a difficult issue. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist and all that.
Irish politics does not weigh heavily on the text which is really about the struggle for survival and dignity in the face of the adversity of the penal system. Behan's humanity, courage and basic decency shines throughout and makes this an incredibly uplifting read.
His mantra when totally up against it - " What can't be cured must be endured" has stayed with me for the last 25 years and served me well.
This is an important book. Read it and pass it on!
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on 27 October 2002
I though for most of my life that both the IRA and anyone who had been sent to a Borstal Institution (a 'bad boys school', I was told) were at best to be feared, at worst to be despised.
With his biography 'Borstal Boy' Brendan Behan effortlessly blows both of my long held myths out of the water.
His account of his time spent under the influence of the British Judicial System, at a tender and incredibly impressionable age is writen with a stunning intermingling of humour and wisdom, and with shocking honesty.
I found it hard to put down, drawn as I was into the lives of 'Paddy''Chewlips' 'Joe' and 'Jock' not to mention 'Jones 538'. It is a great read, but more importantly perhaps, a slight insight into a world populated by young, and often troubled, young men.
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on 18 October 2004
Brilliant!!!!!!!!!! A touching story abount a confused young man who learns that those whom he thought were his natural enemies were in fact no different than himself. In fact they had more in common with him than many of the upper and middle class of his own race. A brilliant and touching book with plenty of light moments as well as a serious underlying lesson for those who believe what they are told rather than basing their opinions of others on their own experiences. We will never see his likes again.
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on 10 March 2010
Brendan behan was Sui generis, one of a kind. Words flow from him like wine from an overturned bottle, unstoppable and fluid; sometimes puzzling, sometimes touching, often hilarious. The world has changed and we'll never see his like again, more's the pity.
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on 25 February 2011
I bought this book after viewing the film of the same title. This was because i enjoyed the film so much that i wanted to read Brendan's own account of the event which could have ended in his execution if he had been of that age. I was surprised at the way the film differed from the book. Almost another story altogether. But a beautiful story and finely acted by all concerned. The film also introduced me to Danny Dyer in a role that I would enjoy seeing him play more often as he had become typecast as gangsterish.
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on 19 August 2009
fantastic book, brill story, well worth reading, the film is not as good as this book, will read again when i get it back from family members.
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on 28 August 2013
This book is brilliant, the language and dialect is so rich you'll re-read sentences again and again, there's some really quite brilliant observed bits of dialogue in here. Behan remembers little nuances in people's speach and character and magnifies it ten fold for the book.

Excellent book. CAn't recommend it enough.
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