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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agony of Waiting for WW3
The Fire Eaters by David Almond

This wonderful novel by David Almond, who is already well –known as the author of the ground breaking, Carnegie and Whitbread winning children’s novel “Skellig”, shows us the irrationality and unfairness of life in 1962 through the eyes of 11-year-old Bobby Burns as it takes us to Northern England to a...
Published on 15 Mar 2004 by MadMaggie

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why the long Wait?
Hi,

I'm 15 Years Old - and the closest thing you will ever find to an expert on all major fictional spy series ever published in English, From James Bond - to Cherub and Alex Rider - without talking to the authors themselves.

There was only one problem with this book, and that was the introduction. The introduction didn't last a paragraph, or a page,...
Published on 28 Nov 2010 by AngusJ


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agony of Waiting for WW3, 15 Mar 2004
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
The Fire Eaters by David Almond

This wonderful novel by David Almond, who is already well –known as the author of the ground breaking, Carnegie and Whitbread winning children’s novel “Skellig”, shows us the irrationality and unfairness of life in 1962 through the eyes of 11-year-old Bobby Burns as it takes us to Northern England to a world overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. What makes David Almond’s writing so special is his ability to view the world so clearly and dispassionately from a child’s point of view. He eschews any form of judgement keeping authorial comment completely absent as Bobby copes simultaneously with the cruelty of sadistic teachers and the possible death of his sick father but still has time to consider the plight of others as exemplified by the outsiders; Daniel the long haired intellectual’s son, McNulty the shell- shocked, hunchbacked fire eater and Ailsa the clever, motherless girl truanting to care for her father and brothers. Bobby is shown as a generous, credulous child who deals with all the inequalities of life calmly and objectively.
The cruelty and unfairness of the Catholic grammar school in the early sixties with the male leather strap wielding staff is shown with all the horror of a young child but what struck me most forcibly was young Bobby’s chosen willingness to be a martyr and fight the tyranny. There are echoes of Roald Dahl’s “Mathilda” in some of the scenes as the merciless black robed staff choose token victims at random to be publicly beaten.
An enjoyable, absorbing read from a multi award-winning author although “The Fire Eaters” is aimed at teenagers it is a book to be enjoyed by both teenagers and adults. It won the Nestles’ Smarties Gold Award and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year 2003 award.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the Edge of Doom:, 29 Jan 2004
By 
A.K.Farrar "AKF" (Timisoara, Romania) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
A stunning book that touches on the territory of Lord of the Flies in its use of the apocalypse and exploration of the cruelty and exploitation common humanity is capable of.
The Rite of Passage we observe is that of all humanity as it totters on the brink - a multi-layered brink with elements of the political and the personal brilliantly exploited by Mr Almond to give a book not only accessible to young people but enjoyable to a more adult readership.
At the centre is the character of McNulty with his cry, "Pay!" He is the fire-eater and escapologist who illuminates, in a way worthy of Beckett, the condition of man at the end of a century of world conflict.
As a teacher of English I would recommend this to any of my students as a thought provoking text which will grip them from the first page. As a human being I am glad I read what is sure to become a classic.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pay! You'll not see nowt till you pay!, 28 Jun 2004
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Paperback)
This is a wonderful and moving book.
It really touched my heartstrings, and is the first Almond book I've read.
It's set in 1962 during the Cuban Missile and centers around the life of young Bobby Burns, an 11 year boy growing up on the East coast of England.
Bobby's life seems charmed - a perfect family, a loving mother and father and a community of friends who love and protect him - but things are changing.
Whilst the World teeters on the brink of Nuclear War Bobby's father has a mysterious illness, and life at his new Catholic school is cruel and viscious and unfair.
In the midst of all this is McNulty, the mysterious Fire breathing strongman who seems to be be fighting his own war against past demons.
Who is he, where does he come from and what does he want from Bobby?
Almond's writting is rich and multi-layered but with a lovely defness of touch.
He skillfully intermingles the personal battles of young Bobby and his family and friends with what happened during that tumultous year of 1962.
The end result never feals forced but instead is a convincing story that just oozes warmth and depth from page to page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I read in 2008, 21 May 2009
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Paperback)
This was one of the best books I read last year. There are a couple of intertwined themes here all set in the background of a working class family in the Durham coalfields.

The protagonist passes the 11 plus and is thus accepted into a grammar school, where he is nevertheless subjected -along with other children there - to daily cruelty, and ingrained prejudices, which during the novel, and through a friendship, he gains the power to overcome.

At the same time there is a theme with a character - McNulty - of mental illness, as well as the strains on the family under the threat of a life threatening illness - all set against the fear of approaching apocalypse in the cuban missile crisis.

There is so much in this book, it cannot be described - it has to be read. And Reading is not a chore, because David Almond is such a good writer. His prose is simple, but still manages to be vivid and engaging.

This is a book to read and ponder. Highly recommended
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why the long Wait?, 28 Nov 2010
By 
AngusJ "AJ" (North Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
Hi,

I'm 15 Years Old - and the closest thing you will ever find to an expert on all major fictional spy series ever published in English, From James Bond - to Cherub and Alex Rider - without talking to the authors themselves.

There was only one problem with this book, and that was the introduction. The introduction didn't last a paragraph, or a page, or even a few pages. Heck, it didn't last a chapter. It lasted the entire first half of the book... When the story line eventually arrived I thought the book was reasonable. Not something that I could pick up and read time and time again and never get bored of - but good enough that I would probably endevour to purchase a sequel if one was to come out. The war-time setting and unusual plot were intriguing, but unfortunately not on a captivating level. It isn't often I have to work to get through a book - you'll see that if you look at my profile 80% of my reviews are 5* - but this book left a lot to be desired. You have to have a lot of willpower to make it past the 10 chapter introduction and that - quite frankly - is not something I will be looking to jump back into doing again any time soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unabridged version read by the author, 26 Feb 2012
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Audio CD)
This was a cleverly written book, with several themes weaving themselves in and out of the narrative.
The Fire Eater, of the title, is also an escapologist and war veteran. He makes his living as a street performer, dealing with his demons from the war by inflicting pain on himself. Meanwhile the whole of the Western world is consumed by fear of the War ships steaming towards Cuba in a showdown with the Russians (1962). Again the theme of fire haunts the reader, this time from nuclear explosion.

Closer to home, Bobby Burns spends time on his East Coast beach, trying to retain a normal life amongst the adults' tensions. When he joins the local Grammar School he finds the severe (excessive) discipline daunting. Meanwhile, his father seems to be suffering from some mysterious illness and no-one will let Bobby know what is happening. His two close friends, Ailsa and Jimmy keep him sane and the new boy from The South, Daniel, often helps him see things in a different light.

The characters were wonderful and the descriptions of the coastal world teemed with life. I had never heard of sea coal, which Ailsa and her family dragged from the sea for a living.
My only complaint about this book would be the excessive violence exhibited by the Fire Eater on himself, the thought of a skewer through from one cheek to the other made me cringe and could be quite upsetting for a sesitive child.
I was lucky enough to have the unabridged audio version, read by David Almond himself, although he has a very thick Northern accent that was a bit hard to comprehend at times. I am keeping my copy for another listen in the future and I will definitely look out for more by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired writing, 25 April 2010
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
This is my first David Almond book. First of many, I think. As the world seems about to shatter around him, Bobby discovers love, friendship and the meaning of life. It's all beautifully written and the last scene on the beach, though poignant, is an absolute delight to read. The chapter when Bobby recalls his own childhood and measures how both futile and beautiful life is has moved me as few other books have managed to do in a long time. I desperately didn't want to finish it as I could have read it for days. Wonderful!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book but similar to Almonds others, 7 Mar 2010
By 
A. RHODES - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
This was the first David Almond book that I read. I really enjoyed it and it made me cry towards the end. It is set in 1962 with 11-year-old Bobby Burns as the narrator and central character. It descirbes his life in a small coast town in Northern England compared to his life at the cruel school which he begins atteneding. The characters are very good and in depth I especially like Ailsa Spink the sea coalers daughter who is a good friend of Bobbys. I like the way that the characters deal with the idea of death in a nuclear war and how they band together.

The only reason that I only gave it 4 stars is because having read many of Almonds other books since there are many similarities between his books as the characters in each book were very similar so if you have read his other books this is not much of a development. This is my favouriate Almond book and is definately worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and rewarding, 22 April 2009
By 
Amanda Meaden (Bromley, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
I'd better confess now, I'm a fully grown adult but I loved this book.

The characters had such life and spirit and warmth and depth and each of them provoked a great deal of empathy from me. Even the village has a personality and the interaction between the characters and their environment was wonderful.

I'd heartily recommend it to all, but I think you'll especially enjoy it if you're sensitive soul who knows what love is.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The fire eaters, 26 Oct 2004
By 
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Paperback)
It was a good book because the author can discribe very well what all the characters feel, what they think, whom they love or hate. I loved it because there were a lot of philosophical passages and when I read them, I thought of all the problems in the book myself. I was incited to think of our own problems now. On the other hand, it was a little bit boring too, there was no action. Sometimes I thought something was going to happen, but it wasn't.
The language was very easy and there were no difficult words.
I would recommend this book to all the children and teenagers, so that they will learn to be respectful for this earth and for all the living things.
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The Fire Eaters
The Fire Eaters by David Almond
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