Me and a dear friend of mine, sitting down and doing chatting. Contemplating the direction in which our lives are taking, she mentioned that a friend of hers had written a book. Cool innit.
The morning after the night before, I downloaded the sample and began reading on the crapper. Its punchy start leaves you somewhat confused, you’re hit with name after name and you feel you haven’t a clue what’s happening. There’s a chase going on, that’s what. The quick start settles into a slower paced couple of chapters and everything starts to make just a little more sense. That false sense of security ended abruptly when the sample ended, and I was left with a stark choice. Leave it there, or follow the story of Richie South. And the way it was going I needed to know what this wee tinker was going to get up to.
Best £3.51 I’d spent in a good while. You find yourself an onlooker, Richie’s confidant, his wartime consigliere. You will him on to make the right decisions, you cheer him as he finds himself knee deep in the girl next door, as he makes you lament for waiting until the ripe old age of 18. It drags you in effortlessly, so much so you end up reading it in the accent the writing portrays. On the toilet. On your own.
It’s funny and charming and yet at the same time it’s dark and shocking. In all honesty, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in my 21 years and I’d ask that you do yourself a favour and take this book seriously. Yer man Ciáran is a talented man shur.
Try a sample. I dare you. The toilet will never have seemed so comfortable.
For some people, childhood doesn’t end but rather fades away. For others, it ends abruptly.
“The Boys Of Summer”, narrated in first person by 11 year-old Richie, is a well-accomplished story of the death of innocence. Remminiscent of José Mauro de Vasconcellos’ My Sweet Orange Tree (which also chronicles the end of childhood, but from the eyes of a five year-old), Boys of Summer takes us through a journey of heartbreak, misunderstandings, sexual awakenings and friendship. The language quickly establishes the setting but it doesn’t alienate the reader. On the contrary, the book takes you back to those days when you were about to enter adolescence and reality seems a little more gritty than you’d imagined. You will find yourself remembering the names of your friends when you were that age, and also questioning *why* you were friends with them. Once you enter Richie’s world there’s no way back.
West doesn’t try to write like an 11 year-old; he inhabits the character completely, thinking and talking and moving and breathing like Richie until you forget that an adult penned this beautiful story. He perfectly captures those moments when you become aware of your surroundings, of your family, of the true nature of people. Those moments when evil is real and not just something you see on the movies and pain is something you feel on the inside and not just a tingle on your skin when you scrape your knee. These are children thrown into a world of adult themes and the narration doesn’t cheat its way through – this is still a kid telling his story. Throughout the book you know as much as Richie does, so don’t even think about predicting what will happen next. You will smile and reminisce. You will yearn for days long gone. You will feel like the air’s been punched out of you.
It is a story about the end of childhood, but it takes an adult to fully understand it.
Wow, not sure where to start about this beautiful, haunting novel. First off, I have to mention the Limerick slang. When I started to read it was a little odd but it was easy enough to tell what the words meant by context and as I read along I got into it and was even tempted to use Limerickisms around the house (to the bafflement of my family). I live in New York and I still use Texas slang here, but whereas my tossing out, “I’ve got a hitch in my get-along” just sounds stupid and hickish, Ciarán West weaves the odd Limerick words into his prose in a beautiful way, without annoying the reader.
You can read about the plot in the book description, so I won’t go into that so much, but I want to tell you how I felt as I read it.
This book was both delightful and disturbing, a bit of a coming-of-age story, a bit of a murder mystery, pain and joy all wrapped up in one heart-rending package. It was sometimes hard to read, but I couldn’t put it down in spite of that. I’m actually feeling a tear welling up even just thinking about it as I write this review. It was simply gorgeous. The writer has the soul of the poet and the heart of a classic country music singer (that’s actually a compliment coming from me–we’re talking Johnny Cash here). The awkward young narrator and his friends and family were so realistically portrayed. It really took me back to that own time in my life, though in my case I was a girl living in a tiny backwater town in rural Texas, rather than a boy in a tough working class neighborhood in Ireland. It says a lot about the novel–though it describes a short period of time and a very small group of people–that it can speak so much to the broader human experience.
If you’re thinking of buying this book, give it a try. I guarantee it will move you (like your soul, not your bowels).
The styling of this book is brilliant. It’s like you think you’re going for a lovely walk by the park and pond, but you end up veering off by accident into the horrible forrest where you stumble upon an immense pile of decayed bunny rabbit bodies. The Boys of Summer is a slow build, with plenty of atmosphere crafted by the use of slang and a general feeling of insecurity that permeates the main character’s sense of being.
Everyone can relate to Richie (the main character) in some way or another; personally his friends’ personalities rang true with me – we all had that one friend of whom we were wary.
I don’t want to say much more than that, though. You really should read this book. I finished it right before going to bed last night and was completely stunned.
West writes about childhood – all the politics, secret joys, terrors, and anxieties – so thoughtfully that by the time you realize that this is not YOUR childhood it’s impossible not to relate. The story is reminiscent of The River’s Edge and early Stephen King, but with a voice that is uniquely West’s own. It is lush and beautiful and heartbreaking.
I’ve just finished this book, and I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and left for dead. In the best possible way. You think you know where it’s going, you think you know what’s coming, but you don’t. You just… don’t. Mr. West spins a sense of unease from the opening pages, and builds it and builds it into a tangible dread and an ending so horrible and real, I may well have nightmares. My heart raced through the entire last of the story, and I could not put it down. Reminiscent, in my mind, of Stephen King at his best; so vivid, it drags you right in.
It’s not all despair and darkness, though; woven throughout is the engaging and gorgeously illuminated story of narrator Richie South’s coming of age with the girl next door. These dreamlike moments interlock with the rest to make young Richard a fully relatable person, rather than a character in a novel.
The Limerick slang may take a bit of getting used to, but it’s well worth the effort (and by effort, I mean taking ten seconds to google “Irish slang: (word).” Believe you me, I’m not one for having to work too hard). I look forward to many more tales from this excellent author. He’s pure rapid, shur.
What a debut. Written in an authentic Limerick voice, Ciaran West weaves a tale that immediately pulls you in. Richie’s fear is palpable, and the writing so vivid, I could see the streets he ran through, his home, and so much more. It takes a few pages to get into the slang, but it is very much worth it.
Well done, and I look forward to more!
I honestly feel like I’ve spent the last 36 hours in Limerick, Ireland. A place I never knew I wanted to go but one that I longed to go back to five minutes after I finished the book. I can’t remember the last time a book has so completely transported me to a different time and place. The world that Mr. West has created will stick with me for a long while and I couldn’t be happier about it. I find the best books contain characters we can connect with and relate to. The speed with which Mr. West is able to establish a connection between the reader and Richie is startling and wonderful. This book is emotional to be sure. This is not a lollipop and merry-go-round tinted revisiting of one’s youth, but rather a very honest examination of a young boy being introduced to the world. Watching Richie as he comes to understand that he will always have to navigate through the good and bad in life, and then the subsequent realization that he has the strength to do so, is heart-warming and inspiring. What I’m about to say may be a reach, and I acknowledge as much. I hate to draw this comparison because I don’t feel it’s fair to Mr. West at all, and also because I am by no means a literary scholar. But for me anyways, Boys of Summer is something of a Catcher in the Rye for those of us who grew up in the 80′s.
What a debut! West draws you in with his sure voice and sense of place and time–Limerick, Ireland in the 1980s–but what starts as a rollicking coming-of-age adventure tale turns into a white-knuckle, rollercoaster ride. I found myself not breathing in spots and at one point had to put my kindle down and consciously relax my clenched muscles. Is there such a thing as emotional whiplash? I think I need a neck brace for my FEELINGS.
While West has a spare style and voice all of his own, I personally felt shades of Tana French and earlier Stephen King (before his editors got so indulgent) in this book.
Also, for those who might be nervous about the child rape and murder aspect of the story: I’m a mom of two young kids and typically avoid these sorts of topics. I can’t get into detail without spoiling any plot points but West handles the topic without sensationalizing or becoming graphic. This is definitely a book for mature readers, though, not YA.