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Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The secret is in the apples..., 20 July 2006
This review is from: All American Boy (Hardcover)
This is the first novel I have read by William J Mann, and it is a superb addition to my collection. As well as being intriguing on the most basic level (small town scandals, hidden family secrets) it is also highly accomplished (adeptly employing techniques such as fluid notions of time to both portray the characters' states of mind and to reveal incidents that created the people they have become).

Although Walter is ostensibly the primary focus of this novel, all the characters are well-developed and vividly portrayed - and moreover, are intensely human, with their own quirks and three-dimensional personalities. Walter's mother, for example, is a masterly creation in her own right. And that's really the point of this review - to stress that this is unquestionably not a `typical' coming of age novel; it reaches far beyond such simple categorisation. Similar in vein to the excellent works of Bart Yates and D Travers Scott, `All American Boy' is expertly crafted and multi-layered, incorporating far broader themes that apply to individuals of any sexuality: the point at which innocence is lost and it's significance; the role of family and extended families; the consequences for the future of closing one's eyes to the past.

One of the most appealing aspects of this work is that the author avoids the temptation to play god and pass moral judgment over his creations, but recognises that the subjectivity of morality mandates that the reader must be left to draw their own conclusions. This is, in part, achieved by the technique of allowing us only to view events through the eyes of the characters themselves; an admirably Nietzschian stance recognising that `reality' only exists from an individual perspective. Hence as there is no overseeing eye that reveals what `really' happened, many elements remain unanswered and ambiguous. This is heightened (as in Travers Scott's `One of These Things') by the occasional hint of mysticism. Those who desire fairy-tale simplicity may be frustrated; those seeking a thought-provoking read with which they can actively engage, and which may present previously unconsidered realms of introspection, will be in their absolute element.

This excellent work has a great deal to offer: powerfully authentic characters, page-turning plot lines, and - above all - a tantalising glimpse into human nature. Read this book; you will not be disappointed.
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Location: UK

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