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The Illumination of Merton Browne Paperback – 10 Jul 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (10 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034093364X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340933640
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,377,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

As soon as you read the first page you're gripped by the voice...a state of the nation novel...a very tough, unflinching look at what life is like today...but there's also an incredible amount of hope...scary, compelling, original...brilliant (Boyd Hilton, Simon Mayo Show, Radio 5)

Merton has a distinctive voice - edgy, sharp, and avid for adventure, whether it's drugs or sex. His inner struggle to abandon his self-destructive path and become responsible for his own life makes for a gripping read. (Daily Mail)

An explosive, disturbingly realistic story (Guardian)

Visceral, tough and original (Tim Lott)

'A vivid, sometimes shocking novel, which combines a fast-moving narrative with an incisive, satirical critique of comprehensive education' (Piers Paul Read, Spectator , Books of the Year)

Book Description

A powerful and disturbing first novel about growing up and the power of education to distort, transform and illuminate

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An excellent book about a boy (Merton Browne) from a tough and deprived estate, who enters his secondary comp subconsciously hoping that education might lead him away from his disfunctional family and sink estate. Merton is a very clever boy whose energies are syphoned off into both learning on his own in a secret place under the school and being the brains behind the local gang on the estate....

There are moments in the book of huge suspense and drama. There are wonderful cameos of his headteacher, his friend's evangelical Caribbean mum, Merton's tutor and his mother.

I could not put it down; Merton as a character is superb and you immediately ( and I obsessively) get drawn into his world from the start.

As well as being a great story it has strong social message: ranging from the importance of thorough education, of well disciplined schools, of the need for fathers in the lives of their children etc...

I urge you to buy it ..you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book almost in a single sitting. It is completely gripping. It is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who grows up surrounded by violence and ignorance, both at home and at school.

On the face of it, Merton doesn't have much hope, but he's got a strong desire to discover the truth and he manages to find an escape in the world of books - poetry, history and literature - which give him a different perspective on the world around him.

You follow him through his big dilemma of whether to go for the dubious glamour of life in a gang or whether to take a different path, one that forces him to push himself to the limits. You are with him all the way.

Merton's character is likeable and engaging, and the writing and observations are sharp and often witty. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is simultaneously an exciting, very well-made tale and a splendid novel of ideas. You cheer for, and fear for, its teenaged protagonist, whose story is riveting, and in a more leisurely way you will mull over the intricacies and ironies of Shaw's vision of modern state-sector education. There are some marvelous tricks here--Merton makes brilliant and terrible mistakes about the world, as do a number of the people he encounters, and Shaw's political sympathies are never simple-minded. The book is at times brutal, always very clever, and passionate about something very much worth caring about: the perversities of some dominant educational ideals and practices, and the fate of people caught in it. Very few novels of ideas are this well crafted as pure stories, and almost no stories as gripping as this one have such a freight of serious ideas. I loved this.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific story, speedily told, which takes you into a murky world from a lateral point of view. It is a revelation, turning assumptions on their head and leading to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. If only all essential messages of truth for our society could be told so entertainingly. Read and enjoy! I am already looking forward to his next book.
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Format: Hardcover
Like the other reviewers and also people to whom I have lent this book, I could not put it down. Started 10 pm finished 6 am. This book also has in my own and others opinion the strongest first seven lines in contemporary English.

The story is a highly original venture in social realism, with some elements of Martin Amis but in fundamental difference from most of this literature, it has the feature that as you read along you don't know whether it is going to have a happy ending, although you see that it may.

The story is accurately described by both the preceding reviewers. It is the story of a boy from a typically deprived and messed up home going through the state secondary education system in a manner that has two key features. First the description of rough life and terrible language is deeply authentic (how do I know? - because I do) Along the line he gets involved with gangs, guns and the courts, yet he ends up as a student at Cambridge.
Second the way the hero gets out of his basic situation is original and exciting. By accident he finds a hidden basement containing a complete old-fashioned school library, which has been put aside in favour of a new library. "Our library in the main block was full of CD Roms and videos. The real library - the old one, all the stuff nobody read any more- had been dumped down here." He finds ways to spend hours in the place, both for study and protection. On this find, in various ways, he builds his future.
Finally, this book is a sure success because both dialogue and soliloqy text are outstanding. A natural born writer.
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Format: Hardcover
This book really surprised me. It's a coming of age story about a boy from desperate familial and socioeconomic circumstances, and a bit reminiscent of tales told by authors from C. Dickens to S. E. Hinton--but the author's understanding of Merton's situation avoids both sentimentality and knee-jerk sociology. It's a page-turner full of memorable action scenes, but it makes you rethink some of the ideological "givens" of our time about the importance of family (not very great, perhaps, if your family is hurting you) and education (kind of totalitarian, actually, if your school won't let you choose your own books and ask critical questions). Merton is pretty much an autodidact, but all of his reading doesn't prevent him from making the mistakes that tragically bedevil so many kids in his circumstances, so he's never too good or bad, and he knows you need to find good teachers. But he's not that ordinary, either. He's a new kind of juvenile hero, neither Oliver Twist nor Holden Caulfield. Grittier and more truthful than Harry Potter, and Merton's wizardry is available to humans--adolescents and grown-ups--willing to read and think.
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