I cannot say enough good things about this book. The story was fantastic, as were the characters. I loved some, hated some, and felt like I knew them all. The performances were unbeatable. I can still hear Mario talking! The book was thoroughly entertaining with a few insightful passages as well. I'm hoping the author's other books are equally as good because I miss Skippy, Ruprecht, Mario and the rest of the gang!
It’s been years since this book came out. It made such a big splash on its debut I feared it may be popular fiction of a type that doesn’t interest me. I waited a little, had a peek, retreated. A big book in the vernacular of adolescent boys: a wave of exhaustion overcame me. Gradually I began to notice that many people whose reviews I follow were finding it an exceptional read. I took another look. No. Still couldn’t ever seem to find the time to wade through the (what I am embarrassed to say I thought at the time) triviality of the thoughts of fourteen-year-olds.
The voice I had in my head as I read was inadequate to this opus. Out of frustration for my lack of understanding the significance of what others were enjoying, I bought the audio of this, performed with great brio, skill, and cognizance by Nicola Barber, Fred Berman, Clodagh Bowyer, Terry Donnelly, Sean Gormley, Khristine Hvam, John Keating, Lawrence Lowry, Graeme Malcolm, Paul Nugent, produced by Audible, Inc. Suddenly I experienced what I had been missing. This has to be one of the very best audiobook performances I have ever heard.
The book is a symphony in four parts, but in the voices of these performers, it is a four-part spoken opera. It is broken into three parts in print and in audio, but make no mistake: This is music. It is Murray’s attempt to reach those of us in alternate universes:
“There is a certain amount of evidence that music of various kinds is audible in the higher dimensions—“(Ruprecht, p. 590)
This is also a classic of literature, worthy of all the kudos heaped upon it, and many more besides. If I could place it next to another book of comparable stature, it would be Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger’s was slim and this is comparatively huge. But Murray makes his words count.
The four parts are named after video games. Hopeland (? Skippy's father mentions it, asking him why he wasn't "done" with it yet, implying it was easy. Perhaps it is the Last Hope videogame: (An evil empire from another galaxy is heading towards Earth). Heartland (The Heartland has fallen under the rule of the ruthless tyrant Midan and his minions...). Ghostland (The blood elves applied the scorched earth policy to these woodlands...). Afterland (a traveling carnival of magical misfits in the afterlife).
Every review I have seen mentions its size as a stumbling block. Pity. It takes days, weeks even, to get to it all, but after having lived with the boys and teachers of Seabrook College for some time now, I am convinced this tragicomic masterpiece is one of the great books of the new century. Funny, tragic, sad, true, and painfully revealing, it addresses major themes of our times and reminds us, with lacerating humor, just how it is to be young today.
The ferociously hormonal boys central to the drama are engaged in the epic battle we all face but prefer to forget: how best does one grow up, today, in a world of global warming? To a fourteen-year-old, the gloom this question casts is rarely acknowledged but manages to shadow thoughts of the future. Murray captures the idiocy of youth, how they are so unsure of themselves, yet feel immortal at the same time.
The cast of characters is positively Dickensonian. Murray peoples an embattled Catholic boarding school with an administration loathe to lose paying students to competitors yet fully aware and conspiratorially silent about the school’s deficiencies; teachers involved in personal dramas struggle to inspire the teens in their charge while warily watching and abetting the administration in their deceptions.
But he is funny, really funny at the same time he is tearing your heart out with the stories of the boys trying to make their way in such a world.
Could not finsh.
Rich and varied.
Maybe, but don't read it if teenage misery bothers you.
Voyeurism, bullying, nihilism, and all the other joys of adolescence culminate in this story. Look at your old high school yearbook before you read this and be thankful that you aren't Skippy.
Paul Murray is a wonderful writer, and I look forward to seeing his first novel in the Audible catalog. Meanwhile, this triple-decker of a novel (600 plus pages, it came out in a three-volume set) is wonderful, haunting company-- read by an ensemble of actors who are uniformly terrific as they embody (envoice?) hormone hijacked adolescents, befuddled lovers, insane businessmen---it was only the space cadet mothers who didn't quite convince, but that may be more Murray than the actors. The boys themselves are uncannily accurate, and Costigan will haunt my dreams. Dean Swift, were he given to the emotion, would be proud.
Oh my, there are so many!
Wonderful voices for each character
I don't know, but the author writes with such compassion about Skippy, his best friend, and his girlfriend.
Very warm, original, and so human!
Oh, those Irish and their beautiful way with words. Who else could take the dull, mundane world of a Catholic boys school and turn it into such a magical gem. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions - Murray's wit and ability to get under the skin of his characters is amazing. The first 2/3 of the book are so funny, from the Irish rappers auditioning for the Christmas Concert to Dennis' interpretation of "The Road Less Traveled" (he's convinced it's anal sex), to simple banter among young boys, Murray lulls you into a light, humorous world that somehow moves (almost in the blink of an eye) into the much more somber final section. All of it is worth is. All is written as expertly as the reviews said.
The recording is terrific, I'm usually not taken with "cast" recordings, but this one was so well cast, directed and edited, it was a winner. I loved the entire experience.
It took me a couple of hours to get into the book -- days really because I listen when I'm walking. The reading cast was helpful because the perspective shifts from one set of characters to another, usually in chronological order but with a couple of dips into past personal history.
I grew to like the characters, even the bullies. The book is satire, savage in part, but it's a satire of human foible and it does not make light of human suffering. After all, even the bullies suffer, and there's nothing mean in the telling of their suffering or the suffering they impose on the rest of the students and faculty. It's an exaggeration of a school, the story of an institution gone wild. But we've all known out-of-control institutions.
Yes! This audiobook was so fun to listen to. The characters all seem familiar to me; maybe I just know a bunch of crazy people. The drama that unfolds at a Catholic boys school is a microcosm of adult life. This book challenges the listener to think about issues of religion, friendship, romance, career, and the workings of the universe. Very cool.
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION
Set at Seabrooke College (a Catholic boarding school in Dublin), Skippy Dies revolves around the death of Daniel “Skippy” Juster. It isn’t a murder mystery per se (after all, Skippy dies, on the floor of a donut shop, in the first few pages of the book.) Yet it is a mystery. Just exactly WHY does Skippy die?
The first part of the book takes place before Skippy’s death and introduces us to Skippy and his life at Seabrooke, where Skippy is one of a group of boarders. As the story develops, we get to know life at Seabrooke and get glimpses into the realities of Skippy’s life. (The boy is bearing many burdens that he keeps well hidden.) Then, just as we begin to grasp things, Skippy dies and aftermath of his death changes the lives of everyone around him—forcing them to look deep within to find their role in his death and the answers they need to keep on living.
This book was brilliant! It was my only 5 star read from 2011, and I just can’t describe to you why this book just rocked my world. However, I will do my best to give you sense of why this book works on so many levels.
Perhaps the reason the book came together for me is that the author manages to combine tragedy and comedy in a way that has you moving from snorts of laughter (just try not to laugh when cynical Dennis explains the “real” meaning of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken or Mario discusses his lucky condom) to tears of anguish (Ruprecht’s reaction to Skippy’s death just broke my heart in a million pieces). To me, Murray managed to get the world of the 14-year-old boy spot-on—with its sense of possibility and innocence mixed with the first dawnings of harsh reality and heartbreak. The boys at Seabrooke College will tug at your heartstrings while also making you turn away in disgust.
Balancing out the life of the boys is the experiences of their teacher, Howard Fallon (who was once a Seabrooke boy himself). In some ways, Howard represents the future of the boys we’re coming to know—the harshness of the “real” world where you might get the girl but then grow tired of her annoying habits and the sheer dreariness of living day after day with the same person. Add in a past you cannot seem to shake and the horror of ruthless, ambitious men like The Automator, and you wonder if perhaps Skippy is the lucky one to depart life so early.
This book captured what it feels like to be on the cusp of the “real” world while also reminding us of what the real world feels like when you’ve been in it for a while. The charm of the boys and their exploits captured my imagination and heart. Like Ruprecht, I mourned for Skippy. In many ways, Skippy represents the death of innocence. As the aftermath of his death leaves the main characters grasping for meaning and a way out of the darkness that his death reveals, I found myself journeying with them.
I’m struggling to capture for you what the book is like as it is often a big sprawling mess of a thing that may require some time to fall into its rhythms. When I first started it, I was unsure about it … if I was “getting” it. But Murray does a brilliant job of weaving a rich and multi-colored tapestry of a story. At first, all the threads feels disconnected and loose, but as the story develops, it comes together in a tightly woven, connected whole and it is breath-taking.
About the Narration
I listened to this book on audio and I’m so glad I did as I’m convinced that the brilliance of the narration is what put this over the top for me. This was the first time I listened to an audiobook that was narrated by multiple readers. (There is a primary narrator who “reads” the book and then different voices for each of the primary characters.) It was like listening to a play in many ways. By having a wide range of Irish actors and actresses play the various roles, the book came alive for me in a way that an audiobook hasn’t quite done before. The voice for The Automator was dead-on, and I came to love Dennis and Ruprecht’s voices as well. The sultry voice of Ms. McIntyre (the teacher who captures Howard’s imagination) was filled with all kinds of flirty knowingness that made you see exactly why he was enchanted by her. Whoever cast the book was a genius. For a long listen (20+ hours), I think it might have gotten to be too much if it was just one reader. Yet I found myself mesmerized by the book. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. This is one book where I would definitely recommend the audio experience if you can get it. It elevated a brilliant novel into something more special.