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Agony of Waiting for WW3,
This review is from: The Fire Eaters (Hardcover)
The Fire Eaters by David Almond
This wonderful novel by David Almond, who is already well –known as the author of the ground breaking, Carnegie and Whitbread winning children’s novel “Skellig”, shows us the irrationality and unfairness of life in 1962 through the eyes of 11-year-old Bobby Burns as it takes us to Northern England to a world overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis. What makes David Almond’s writing so special is his ability to view the world so clearly and dispassionately from a child’s point of view. He eschews any form of judgement keeping authorial comment completely absent as Bobby copes simultaneously with the cruelty of sadistic teachers and the possible death of his sick father but still has time to consider the plight of others as exemplified by the outsiders; Daniel the long haired intellectual’s son, McNulty the shell- shocked, hunchbacked fire eater and Ailsa the clever, motherless girl truanting to care for her father and brothers. Bobby is shown as a generous, credulous child who deals with all the inequalities of life calmly and objectively.
The cruelty and unfairness of the Catholic grammar school in the early sixties with the male leather strap wielding staff is shown with all the horror of a young child but what struck me most forcibly was young Bobby’s chosen willingness to be a martyr and fight the tyranny. There are echoes of Roald Dahl’s “Mathilda” in some of the scenes as the merciless black robed staff choose token victims at random to be publicly beaten.
An enjoyable, absorbing read from a multi award-winning author although “The Fire Eaters” is aimed at teenagers it is a book to be enjoyed by both teenagers and adults. It won the Nestles’ Smarties Gold Award and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year 2003 award.