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Customer Review

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age, 31 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: The Hand-Reared Boy (Independent Voices) (Paperback)
Aldiss' book is best known for lifting the lid on the lights-out goings-on at public schools, but there is far more to the Hand Reared Boy than that. The main protagonist, Horatio, is depicted in the first person. His candour is both amusing and at times, shocking. Horatio indulges in layman's psychology, but does so knowingly and with some lack of respect for the science. Nonetheless, this helps to paint his characters with great depth.

Horatio tells of his recollections of growing up, his constant fascination with corporeal pleasures and his first great love. The narrative is provided long after the original events and so the narrator is able to use his life experiences to understand the other characters better. What seemed like slights to him as a teenager can now be seen with greater empathy.

Although the greater part of the book explores Horatio's relentless pursuit of someone... anyone... to help bring him pleasure, it is neither gratuitous nor pornographic - certainly not by today's standards.

Horatio is born to a middle class family and grows up around the time of WWII, his father having served in WWI. There are strong hints at the dysfunctional family and his mother's psychological problems. His family employs servants and aspires to ever higher social standing. All of these factors: mental illness, class, the treatment of the servants, the social climbing, public school life and the demands on the populace in times of war, are fascinating and provide the story with a depth that lasts well beyond the first reading.

The Hand Reared Boy is a compelling coming of age story as well as a view into a time not so long ago, but increasingly out of reach, covering the turmoils of living through WWII, the sexual revolution and the very significant change in class politics. Horatio's growth is not only sexual, but also emotional and that is what gives this book more substance than might first seem apparent.
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