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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 20 October 2001
I was amazed top see that someone had posted a review claiming this book wasn't suitable for children. I am 12, I loved this book, and I have a nine year old sister who, although some of it went over her head, also thought it was brilliant! The parts that included dying babies were dealt with with sympathy, compassion and great care, although, yes, they were moving. The first half is about Meshak Gardiner, a 'simpleton' and son of a baby trader and peddlar; Alexander Ashbrook, a musical genius who leaves home because his father won't comtinue to allow him to train as a musician; Thomas Ledbury, Alexander's companion at Gloucester cathedral; and Melissa Milcote, who Alexander falls in love with.
The second part is about Meshak, now a man known as Mish, Alexander's son Aaron, and Toby, Aaron's friend at the Coram hospital. When Mr Gaddarn (who has another name- that person presumed dead) puts Toby to work in his house as 'a little black puppy' for the nobles to play with, Toby finds out he is shipping Coram children away as slaves and hareem girls. Aaron was apprenticed out to Mr Burney, a musician, because he shares his father's amazing musical talent, and he and Toby try to stop this. I was choked at the end... The only thing about this book I wasn't sure of was the coincidences, and the way everyone connected up. It was a very small world indeed! But Jamila Gavin made them make sense, at least. Read it, whatever your other tastes are- and if you are a parent, don't worry because any sensible, intelligent child of nine or above, or even eight, will be moved but certainly not disturbed.
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on 9 October 2000
I read Coram Boy as part of a review of modern children's literature, with the prospect of devising a unit of work for S1 and S2. The novel is a fascinating story with colourful characters both admirable and darkly menacing.
Jamila Gavin has used historical fact as the basis for her tale of abandoned children, slavery, love and greed. The novel is recommended for children of 12 years and above and I felt that it would be a challenging read for 11-13 year olds. The story itself is fairly complex and draws many elements and thematic threads together at the end. The language the author uses is rich and she makes use of a wide range of figurative language adding to the complexity of character, setting and tone.
This novel is fast paced and continually pulls the reader in and forces one to read on. The main characters are children themselves, adding to the appeal. The characters are very individual and sit well against each other. The most alluring aspect of the novel is, of course, its emotional strengths. The author deals with themes such as slavery, murder and deceit which while fascinating and enticing to read, also gives pause for thought and provides a good basis for group discussion.
The only criticism I would have about this novel is the ending, which I felt was slightly too tight and explicit. However, I found it an interesting and compelling read for an audience of all ages!
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on 26 May 2004
I thought this book was great. It started slowly and took a while to get into the main story but once it got going I couldn’t put it down. It won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and I am not surprised, it definitely deserved it.
The tale is expertly told to keep the readers interest and to make ‘The Coram Boy’ a real page turner. I would say that readers of all ages would enjoy this moving and eventful book. It is a unique story set in the 1700’s, beautifully crafted by Jamila Gavin to maintain your interest and create a vivid image of life in those times.
I would recommend this book to anyone, for an entertaining and amazingly well written novel. I loved the way the book takes two strands that tie up as you go through the book. ‘The Coram Boy’ takes you on a journey through the struggles of young people in the 1700’s and really sucks you into their world. It makes for a great read, I know you’ll enjoy it!
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on 30 June 2004
Coram boy is an intricate tapestry of intertwined lives, set in the gothic time period. It appeals to a huge variety of people, due to its superb range of characters and situations. From the misunderstood Meshak, to star-crossed lovers Alex and Melissa. It evokes a cacophony of emotions, from pity and anger to extreme joy. You find yourself swept along with the characters and instantly absorbed into the story.
Coram Boy begins with the disturbing tale of Meshak and his cruel father, Otis. The troubled Meshak is burying crying bundles in ditches under the command of his overbearing father. This is swiftly contrasted by the switch to Alexander's lavish life style as he holidays with his choral friend Thomas. Here we are introduced to the book's main female characters; sister Isobel and the angelic Melissa. As the plot continues, we begin to discover links between the two stories which are pulled closer together as time goes by.
Although confusing at times, Coram Boy is an intriguing and compelling novel. One which we would recommend everybody to read.
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on 18 January 2007
I am 13 years old and have recently been set this book as a 'Class Reader'. I finished it a couple of weeks ago now but it is one of those books that has a long term impact. It has both inspired me in my writing techniques and in my ideas for creative writing.

This book is set in the 1700s and I think that the author has researched 18th century London extremely well and includes precise detail. In my opinion, this is crucial in making a novel enjoyable and I think it has to be believable. Jamila Gavin has exceeded this. She uses description that in places is disturbingly detailed and accurate.

I like the way that the book is in two parts, skipping a few years in between. This is good as it cuts out a lot of unnecessary reading and leaves you to figure out many things in Part 2. I think books which do not spell everything out in black and white are great at keeping the reader's attention and make a story much more worth while.

Coram Boy is a moving, educational, Historical tale (that makes it sound boring but it really isn't!) which I would deffinately recommend to anyone my age and above. Just don't expect it to be a barrel of laughs, it is quite sad and depressing in places! Hope you enjoy it!!! :)
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on 30 June 2004
Coram boy is a compelling novel where different lives and cultures become intertwined.The story line covers many aspects of live as the characters involved are of different status and the huge range of characters creates an intricate tapestry when they all come together. The book contains smaller story-lines within the rest which are more subtle but just as important.The character Meshak is a misunderstood and emotionally-scared boy who is part of a disturbing story-line, involving his cruel and slightly insane father, named Otis.The main love of the book comes from the two young adults, Alexander and Melissa who are involved in a deep and slightly passionate relationship which is broken by alexanders father when he rids the house of the idea and music.
As the book unfolds the story-lines connect revealing a dramatic finish.Many of the main characters are children or young adults who tend to annoy the adults.The main downfall of the book is the fact that there are too many different story-lines which, at times, become hard to follow.
Although the book has a few flaws it is a must-read and i rate it 4 stars out of 5.I recommend this book to anyone who undrestands the suffering of children in the past.
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on 30 June 2004
We read this novel as part of a group-reading task at school. Coram Boy combines many connecting storylines. The story may be, in the beginning, difficult to get into and, at times, may not hold your interest but the story soon picks up pace and comes alive. This book has many interesting characters that come from very different backgrounds. Meshak is a disturbed child who suffers nightmares after being forced to bury rich women's illegitimate children alive in ditches by his cruel father, Otis. The future Lord Ashbrook, Alexander, is a passionate, musical genius whose talent is not appreciated by his father. Aaron is the illegitimate son of Alexander and his childhood sweetheart, Melissa. The characters' complicated lives meet up through different points of the story. This book is worth reading as it helps you understand how life was for children from different backgrounds in the 1700s.
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on 26 October 2015
This tale is included as a set book for an OU module on children's literature. I loved it and I'm well past the target market for this story! It has a strong plot line and is just brutal enough to give a flavour of life as it was in olden times where poverty and worthless lives were the norm.
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on 18 April 2016
I was disappointed by Coram Boy; my last encounter with it had been when it was on at The National Theatre, which was absolutely amazing and maybe I had forgotten that the novel actually isn't as good as its stage adaptation. I don't think that Jamila Gavin is a particularly spectacular writer, although her stories are good. But, rereading this, even the story seemed lacking: there were too many coincidences, even for a children's book and I ended up feeling pretty irritated. I wish I hadn't reread it, and left it as a nice memory. Sometimes childhood things are best left without revisiting.
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on 6 August 2006
This is a moving tale of slavery, friendship and oppression that will surely appeal to adults even though the teenager is the primary target audience. It is written in simple language, but this takes nothing away from the horror of slavery, and is sure to touch the heart of every sensitive child (or adult!)It is pretty grim and sombre at times, and evil is constantly in danger of overthrowing everything that is good and humane, but hope and joy never cease to shine, however dimly, in this heart-warming story. If you get it for your kids, make sure you read it too!
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