Book review

Georgie by Malachy Doyle (2001)

Here's a gentle story about how Georgie came to the special school at Abernant and learned how to put his terrible past behind him.

Georgie is in an awful state when we first meet him:

I sit on the toilet, pushing it all into my hand, and then I paint the walls brown. Brown to wash out the white of my anger. Brown to make them hate me. Oh, how they hate me.
Back in my room, I tear off my pyjamas and rip them to shreds.
I run to the window and thump it till my fist's sore.
I grab hold of the radiator and I pull it, pull it. I'll have it off the wall one of these days, and then there'll be a right bloody mess.

In fact, we have the same problem that Georgie does: we don't really know what he's like, what kind of person he is, underneath all that dreadful distress.

He obviously can't carry on in this condition. He is transferred to a special residential school, deep in the middle of rural Wales:

'You'll be able to make a fresh start, Georgie,' she cries, almost pleading. Her voice is rising, squeaking. 'It's what you need, you know it's what you need. A clean sheet. A chance to begin again. A chance to be normal.'

Well, is Georgie ready to make a fresh start? And even if he is ready, who could he possibly trust to help him? Anyone who is given the job of helping Georgie will have to be a very special kind of person:

He's not like all the others, this Tommo man. He's quiet, for one thing. Doesn't fill all the spaces with words. He's big enough, strong enough, to worry me, but for some reason his strength doesn't scare me at all. It sort of makes me feel safe.

It's a sad, horrifying, happy story, and I couldn't put the book down until I had read it. I just had to know that Georgie was going to be alright! And even after I had finished the book, I was still thinking about it for a long time afterwards. Brilliant! Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

If it is the mental health aspect of this story which interests you, you might like to look at this one by Robert Westall, which I have not reviewed, but I was very taken with it when I read it:

  • Gulf

A rather different type of book, quite humorous, but with a similar introspective atmosphere, you might like this book by Jan Mark:

Michelle Magorian has written a superb book set during the Second World War, about a young boy evacuee who is rescued from terrible deprivation in London and given a new life:

Possibly, you might be interested in this book by Melvin Burgess about heroin addiction:

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

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