The Illumination of Merton Browne Paperback – 10 Jul 2008
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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)
A powerful and disturbing first novel about growing up and the power of education to distort, transform and illuminate
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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From the opening sentence this book is a compulsive and deliberately shocking read. It tells the story of one kid from an inner-city nightmare home who escapes his no-hoper destiny... Read morePublished on 9 July 2010 by Eileen Shaw
A gripping and easy read, but with a shallow and highly predictable ending. It starts off well but dissolves into ridiculous fantasy with a highly unconvincing, happy-ending. Read morePublished on 7 Aug. 2008 by Ka Sutton
This book is accurate and yet discouraging in its description of the effects of the totalitarian comprehensive system in destroying the curriculum and undermining the the hopes of... Read morePublished on 21 Jan. 2008 by Saper Vedere
I was very impressed by the start of this book but as it progresed I found my interest waning as it became more and more unrealistic. Read morePublished on 9 Dec. 2007 by W. A. Burt
I bought the book after hearing some interesting reviews on the radio. I was disappointed. I found the book filled with stereotypes. Read morePublished on 26 Aug. 2007 by Dan the Man