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Borstal Boy (Arena Books) Paperback – 5 Apr 1990
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"He has more than charm, he has instinctive kindness and charity, a verbal grace, an unforced assertion of a strong personality" (Sunday Times)
"The best thing in Irish writing since Sean O'Casey" (The Spectator)
A moving autobiography from the famous, even infamous Irish playwright and author, Brendan Behan. Continuing the longstanding tradition of political Irish literature, propagated by James Joyce and Sean O'Casey, this is the true story of life in the IRA.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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!