Sunday, September 26, 2010

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

This is Paul Murray's second novel. It takes place at an all boy's Catholic school in Ireland and focuses on Daniel "Skippy" Juster. Skippy got his nickname because he bore an uncanny resemblance to a children's kangaroo character of the same name. He is a boarder at Seabrook College, a Catholic school, at a time in most young boys' life when they're undergoing certain, shal we say, changes. Skippy's best friend and roomate is Ruprecht, a portly boy that is a genius. The novel opens with Skippy and Ruprecht having a donut eating contest at a local eatery that is popular with the Seabrook boys. Ruprecht looks on in shock as Skippy collapses, falls off his chair and dies, while writing "Tell Lori" on the floor in jelly, even though he doesn't seem to be choking. So yes, Skppy dies in the first few pages.  But this satire of contemporary Irish society doesn't just end there. It proceeds for about 650 more pages, in which we meet the mysterious Lori referred to by Skippy, Howard the Coward (a history teacher at Seabrook and an alum who lives with his girlfriend Halley after a failed attempt at invest banking in the city), Ms. McIntyre (a substitute geography teacher, who tells Howard that she won't sleep with him no matter what he does), and the other boys and teachers at the school who are impacted by Skippy's untimely death.

I loved this book - it took me only a few days to read it even though it's 661 pages long and sometimes difficult to read, emotionally at least. Murray does a wonderful job in conveying all points of view - at times, he's poignant, at times cynical, at times nieve and at other times just really, really witty.  Totally worth the read, even though some parts of this novel are heavy, or dark or both at the same time.

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