Deadkidsongs Paperback – 4 Oct 2001
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With his novels Corpsing and Beatniks, young Brit Lit gunslinger Toby Litt showed he had mastered the essentials of the trendy bestseller. With this poignant, odd, confusing, moving, heartfelt, troubling book he's tried to do an even trickier thing: extend his range and readership upmarket.
The tenor of deadkidsongs is Just William meets Lord of the Flies with a nod to the latter-day works of Nick Hornby, which gives you some idea of what a different-but interesting-book it is. The story concerns four pre-pubescent boys, all members of a gang called Gang, growing up in darkest Devon in the 70s. Against a background of Cold War rumours and Last War memories they play their conkers and cowboys an' injuns, their war and show-us-yer-willy games. Then their clumsy and wistfully innocent Arcadia is overturned when one of them dies; from there the narrative unravels until the reader is not sure who is telling what to whom, nor quite how reliable the teller might be.
To recapture a lost childhood is ambitious enough; Litt's aim is to do that and then some: he wants to say profound things about masculinity, nostalgia, violence and nationhood. Whether he succeeds or not is moot; anyone sincerely interested in the modern British novel will want to read this to decide for themselves. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Toby Litt has taken us back into the secret and brutal lair of childhood... wickedly, wittily scary' ObserverSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
That, I believe, is the point.
This is a very clever book indeed. I'm sure you know that it is about young boys and the violence that these "monsters" (it's OK, I can say that, I used to be one) get up to, either for real or in their minds.
Litt's character development is so convincing, that by about half way through, you are terrified what one particular boy may do every time he appears on the page.
But where this book is particularly clever is the way the writer confuses you with the narration. Who is narrating this bit? Isn't that slightly different from the way that was described over there? Who was narrating that bit anyway?
You'll keep thinking about the end and what really happened for months after finishing it.
(i) it's a tale of childhood, evoking memories of younger days when life was so much simpler and us kids were allowed to go out and play on our own (but it does get a bit disturbing as the story progresses), and
(ii) it's a mystery, but very different to your standard Agatha Christie fare in that there's no "showdown" at the end that tells us what happened, why it happened and how we should have been able to work it out for ourselves. It just ends and it's up to the reader to try to piece it all together.
I loved it for the childhood nostalgia and the way that I kept thinking things over after I finished reading.
If you like this novel, try the works of Guy Burt next. They are also mysteries, centred around kids that are growing up and not telling adults about what they're up to.
From then on things really begin to unravel as these adolescents try to play adult games in childish ways, turning this English village into a place of escalating fear, paranoia and uncertainty. The stakes increase people start to crumble and others panic as the black acts play out.
As the mood descends and the deliberate acts of cruelty and stupidity increase the believability seems to suffer accordingly and I thought it really started to get too far fetched and silly and the crimes we are supposed to believe committed by kids around 12 at the end are just beyond ridiculous. Rambo would struggle to pull off those acts with the same level of cold hearted precision and efficiency, either way it finishes with a black, confusing twist in the tale that leaves more questions than answers.
I think it best not to know too much going in, other than to be aware of warnings this book is NOT for everyone, as a parent I found aspects of story and characters almost too much to bear: there is graphic violence, physical and emotional abuse of children and women, and scenes of animal cruelty, too. Then there's its confusing structure with deliberate contradictions and variations in accounts from different POV characters.
I have read, and enjoyed, American Psycho which did not affect me nearly as much as Deadkidsongs because Brett Easton Ellis's novel is dark satire, its violence and gore of the Spartacus: Gods of the Arena type. Deadkidsongs on the other hand is horribly realistic. The narrative racks up tension in a way that forces you to keep reading on with an ever increasing sense of impending doom.
The title tells us what to expect: it is a literal translation of Kindertotenlieder, a series of poems by Friedrich Rückert written after his children's death and set to music by Gustav Mahler, quoted before each chapter.
Other reviewers have made comparisons with Lord of the Flies and The Wasp Factory crossed with Just William. Yes! It is about 4 blond boys in a Seventies English provincial town in a Gang run on militaristic lines, with a command structure. They train to fight the Commies, fed on the Mother's Milk of WWII films/books, free to roam in that benignly neglectful parenting way of my own childhood.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If we are looking for easy entertainment, we do not necessarily want to be constantly puzzled by such questions as who exactly is telling us the story. Read morePublished on 7 Jan. 2008 by David
Rather like Lord of the Rings but set in 1970s suburban rural England, this is a very entertaining and thought-provoking read. Read morePublished on 1 Sept. 2007 by Lovetoread
I thought this book was completely gripping when I read it just after it came out. However looking over my bookcase recently I remembered that at the time I had found it deeply... Read morePublished on 12 Aug. 2004 by Mrsbabushka
Deadkidsongs is a very compelling book, transposing from the adventures of normal small town gang of young boys to a dark and frantic ending, almost... Read morePublished on 18 April 2004 by simon gurney
The reader is warned in the preamble that two of the chief protagonists will be dead by the conclusion, but this in no way spoils the tension in Litt's minor masterpiece. Read morePublished on 19 Mar. 2004 by Cartimand
I picked this book up in my school library and hardly put it down over the next week that I spent reading it. Read morePublished on 22 July 2003 by Jason Edwards
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who remembers 'playing out' with your mates when younger. It is adventurous reading material, thirilling and exciting! Read morePublished on 10 Jun. 2003 by Amazon Customer