on 23 August 2010
I chose to read this book as the title sounded interesting and it had good comments from people who had already read the book, describing it as funny, moving, wise and exciting. The blurb on the back of the book was interesting as it was in the form of a letter addressed to the Queen, from Colin. It describes Colin's situation and why he requires the attention of the Queen. From reading only the blurb, you realise that the book is going to touch on sensitive issues, and in this case, cancer of Colin's younger Brother Luke.
This is a fiction book, which has funny moments as well as dealing with difficult subjects with skill and great respect. The book is set in Australia which is where the author has lived since he was 16. The front cover is interesting and really depicts what the story is about. There is the land of Australia where Colin lives, and the land of England, and where the Queen lives, and a plane going from Australia to England, which may hint to the reader that there is some travelling in the book.
The main character Colin is Australian, so some of the language choices reflect that, such as the use of the words `crook', `dill' and `g'day'. The book is written in 3rd person and focuses mainly on what Colin is thinking or doing. Throughout my reading of the book, I felt that I got in to the mindset of Colin, and believed whatever he believed. For instance, when Colin firmly believed that Luke would be ok, and that the Australian doctors were being slack so did I, although I knew really that Australian doctors are as good as the English ones, and if a doctor says that someone is going to die, it is not a joke and they mean it.
The journey that Colin takes to England and the events that he gets up to there are followed closely by the reader. He tried writing to the queen, breaking in to Buckingham Palace, breaking out of the house, going to the top cancer doctor in London and even thought about going to South America to get a tribe to tell him the cure for cancer. The attempts Colin makes to try to get a doctor or someone to save his brother's life are admired. As the reader, I believed that he would find someone or something to save Luke. Like Colin, I didn't want to believe that there was nothing that could be done.
While in England Colin stays with his Auntie Iris, Uncle Bob, and Cousin Alistair. Having these characters in the book brings some humour to the story, which is needed, when the theme of the book is quite dark. Alistair especially is a funny character. He is very safety and health conscious, due to his very over protective parents, and this makes for a funny sub plot. Auntie Iris constantly thinks he is sickening, and Alistair takes a couple of trips to the doctors in a matter of a few weeks, although the only thing really wrong with him is that he has dandruff! Alistair is scared of going to town by himself for fear of hurting himself, and of course because his mum doesn't let him go. The moments that made me laugh out loud in the book normally focussed around when Alistair was speaking, especially the part where he imagined Colin sitting on the end of the Queens bed, and her waking up and having such a fright that she wet herself! Moments like this are needed in the book and work well to keep the story more light-hearted.
Another two characters that Colin met in England were Ted and Griff. Ted was in much the same situation as Colin, as he also knew someone who was suffering from terminal cancer, and that person was Griff. Griff is Teds partner in the book, hence they are a homosexual couple. Griff also was suffering from AIDS and during the book he dies from it. This is quite an emotional part, and has to be dealt with sensitively. This storyline can also provoke a lot of questions from children, which again will need to be tackled with a great deal of sensitivity. Colin gets to know these two characters well in the book, especially Ted, with whom he develops a good friendship. It is lovely to read that Colin is doing all he can to not only help his brother Luke, but also make Ted and Griff's final weeks together really special.
The end of the book is the saddest but yet happiest ending to a book I have read in a long time, and I could feel my eyes well up as I read the last sentence. It finishes at just the right moment, where Colin realises that sick people need to have their family around them, and so he flies back to Australia to see Luke. The story ends with Colin arriving at the hospital and seeing Luke who is so happy to see his brother, and Colin realising that this is where he should be. However, as the reader, you know that Luke has terminal cancer and will inevitably die. This is why it is good to finish the book at this point, on a happy ending, as carrying on the book would have been too sad for many readers to handle, especially children. I also think that it is nice that Colin decided that he wants to go to university when he is older to try and find a cure for cancer.
I have really enjoyed reading this book, and I am not ashamed to say that it made me laugh and cry, which I think makes for a great book that really gets the reader involved with the storyline as it develops. I am not sure which book this reminds me of if any, but I did read a Jacqueline Wilson book about two friends, and where one friend dies, and how the one left manages to cope, so that book had a similar plot.