Book review

Heathrow Nights by Jan Mark (2000)

Have you ever come across a book that seems to speak your innermost thoughts for you? All those jumbled emotions and half-formed ideas suddenly become crystal clear. I know it happens to me from time to time, and it can be a very powerful feeling. It's reassuring to know you are not alone and that someone else thinks and feels the same way you do.

It's like that for Russell in this book. He's had a terrible year. His father died and not long after that his mother married again. Too soon. So not only did Russell have a stranger suddenly occupying the space that truly belonged to his father, but Russell was unable to share the grieving experience with his mother, because she was doing it differently. And that left Russell feeling isolated and still grieving for his father:

'I'm not trying to replace your father,' he said to me urgently, once.
I said, 'You couldn't.'
'I know,' Hague said, humbly, but I didn't see why I should give him an easy ride.

Doesn't sound as though there is anything too wrong with Russell's stepfather, really, does it? It's just that Russell still hurts. And perhaps Russell might have come to terms with Hague over time, but Russell started to read Hamlet at school.

Now, actually, Hamlet was in a pretty similar situation to the one that Russell finds himself in. And Hamlet swore to avenge his father's death by murdering his new step-father. Russell isn't mad. He's obviously not going to murder anyone, but perhaps Russell's pre-occupation with the play encourages him to make more of an enemy of his own step-father than he might otherwise have done? Well, if you read the book you will be able to decide for yourself.

The action of this book takes place at Heathrow Airport where Russell and two friends decide to spend a week in hiding. They should be away with the rest of the class on an adventure holiday, but they are excluded at the last minute and don't confess it to their parents. Naughty things. But you can find a lot of sympathy for these three boys. They are all having a rotten time at home. And Heathrow Airport is an excellent place to hide. There are so many people there.

Actually, most of the action takes place inside Russell's head. As time slowly passes Russell is able to review the events of the last year or so. But it is an emotional week for him, awake and worrying, and perhaps Hamlet magnifies his problems. He really needs rescuing from himself ...

I enjoyed this book very much. I liked Russell. I found him intelligent and caring. A very attractive personality. Does anyone rescue him? You'll have to read the book!

What can I read next?

Jan Mark has written plenty of books. If you are an older reader you might like to look at this longer one:

Or this one, for slightly younger readers:

Melvin Burgess writes real-life stories. You could look at:

Michael Coleman has written an excellent book about two boys who get themselves in a mess:

One final suggestion. You could have a look at this one by Jenny Nimmo:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Heathrow Nights features in these lists: