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Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, lucid, brilliant - a masterpiece, 24 Aug. 2008
This review is from: What I Was (Paperback)
This is a luminous, lucid, brilliant book - which is ironic, as in some ways it's a book about what isn't said or seen. Told in a subtle, witty, intelligent voice, this is funny, thoughtful and ultimately very moving - so complex and skilful that the "love story" or "coming-of-age story" labels simply don't do justice to it.

In the mundane, bleak world of a sixties boarding school next to the sinking East Anglian coastline, the narrator stumbles on the hut where a boy, Finn, lives alone, fending for himself. Entranced by Finn's beauty, strength, and freedom, he observes and then shares the idyll, escaping from a background of mediocrity and duplicity before inadvertently acting as the catalyst for the destruction of Finn's life. The relationship is perfectly judged - subtle, understated, described with a warmth and honesty that is laudable - and Rosoff encapsulates the feeling of attraction that is less I-want-you than I-want-to-be-you perfectly. The book acknowledges the self-absorption and naivety of the narrator without his losing our sympathy, and while his love for Finn is ambiguous at least it remains one of the most recognisable portrayals of desire I've ever read. In terms of action, it's fairly slow - don't anticipate wars, shootings, plane crashes, car crashes... and yet I found it the most compelling of Rosoff's books, utterly absorbing and truthful. It is also, of course, very funny.

I notice that the new cover is utterly romantic fiction - but don't be put off. This is far more gripping and interesting than it looks. It is probably more of a women's book than a men's one - I found the narrator perfectly male, but then I'm female, and my male friends have expressed some doubts - but it is sharper, more austere and has more integrity than that soft-focus seascape would seem to imply. So buy it anyway. Buy the kids' edition. Or buy one of each.
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Location: Kent, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,802,076