I look so forward to a book narrated by Irishmen. I loved Frank McCourt's books when they were read by the author. "Angelas Ashes" is on top of my all-time list.
I believed that this book was among the same genre. I thought it was about young, Irish students trying to make a go of life. Turns out, it was a long and detailed list of the angst of teenage boys and the turmoil they face while struggling through daily life.
It was just No big deal. I did NOT like the characters. They didn't bring me into their heads. If I cared about them, I may have paid better attention. I hope to struggle to the end of this book and find out why and how Skippy dies. That will be enough for a credit lost.
I am a few hours into the book and still haven't found a character in the book that I care about. Maybe I need to listen more, but I don't think I'm strong enough.
Short, sweet and to the point: I read alot. I can't finish this. It is disjointed, unpleasant and never ending. It is a waste of my time and upsetting to even write about this singularly boring and undeserving book. I "get" Brit Lit humor. This isn't it. Spend your credit on something that makes sense.. This doesn't.
I am almost through part 1. I doubt I will be able to finish this but I keep trying because I spent a whole credit getting it and I am stubborn. It is very difficult to follow or stay focused on. I agree with other reviewers that it is hard to determine who is talking. Also I do not care for the narrator, he speaks just a little too fast, making it even harder to follow what is going on. It probably would be an easier book to read than to listen to as then backtracking is possible, it would be easy to determine who is speaking and the most inane parts could be skipped over. I am sorry I bought this book. I usually "trust" Audible that when a book is featured it is not a waste of time but in the future I will wait for the reviews to come in before relying on that reasoning.
They are both great. I can't imagine the narrator doing a better job, though.
The emotional impact.
Not sure who's who, but everyone did a great job.
Skippy due to the tragedy of his circumstances and the ability to connect to his character.
Christmas Canon (after Pachelbel’s Canon)
"Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living."
-Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (1813 - 1855)
"Maybe instead of strings it’s stories things are made of, an infinite number of tiny vibrating stories; once upon a time they all were part of one big giant superstory, except it got broken up into a jillion different pieces, that’s why no story on its own makes any sense, and so what you have to do in a life is try and weave it back together,…"
Angst, that amorphous feeling of dread, has its balance in tragicomedy and metaphysical hope. Teenage angst, most of all, is defining in its shattering of illusion, its realization that the world is only grey, and that there is no real answer. In this thoroughly entertaining and achingly poignant book, Paul Murray managed to weave an elegant allegorical fabric of the cosmos in which the mathematical system of classical music is the perfect mode of communication. Yet this quantum world is heartbreakingly chaotic in the macro world of students in a prep school, its faculty members and the employees of a donut shop. It’s a multiverse where particles connects and vibrates in a symphonic movement of banality and hope. Highlighted are the painful lives of the troubled Daniel "Skippy" Juster, the wishful Ruprecht Van Doren, and the regretful Howard.
The story takes place in Seabrook, a Dublin private school composed of hormonal teenage boys, in particular a group of 14-year-old friends. This world of privileged children and haunted faculty members is full of vivid characterization and dark humor, with the sex-obsessed Mario proudly touting his three-year-old unused lucky condom, Ruprecht’s foibles in his search for a way to the other universe, and male infatuations with schoolgirl Lori and Geography substitute teacher Aurelia McIntyre. There is also a villain in the form of drug dealer Carl, Skippy’s sociopathic rival for Lori. Underlying this symphonic movement with its variation of voices is the poignant bass of the lost Skippy. Murray masterfully integrates a large number of point of views, from the students to the employees of the donut shop, seamlessly moving from third person to first person, from trite musings to deep insight, and from humorous to tragic. All this with a curious mixture of humor, tragedy and hope.
The personal stories are not only about teenage angst, but also about the Seabrook faculty members. The adult Seabrook staff members are no less lost in their navigation through life. "Howard the Coward" Fallon, the history teacher, drifts through a life of disappointments; Gregory L. Costigan, the economics teacher and acting Principal, is obsessed with the business side of running the school; Father Jerome Green, the scary French teacher atoning for a past sin, is an overachiever of altruistic accomplishments; and Tom Roche, former star athlete and swim coach, has a life that is tragically intertwined with Howard’s disappointments.
The plot starts out with the big bang, the death of Daniel "Skippy" Juster after he scrawled with donut jelly, "TELL LORI", for Ruprecht to tell Lori that he loves her. Death and tragic love sets the tone for a story that accelerates into a revelation of everyone’s imperfect universe. In this ever changing and interacting donut shaped universe, things manifest in time and goes back into the fold. We are swept up in this canon of unrequited loves, loneliness in a crowd, and the tortured decision to tow the line or be true to oneself.
Skippy Dies is a Möbius strip with the teenage Skippy’s story balancing the adult Howard’s story. Both are tainted by a defining shaming moment that would cause them to badly cope with the emotional impact, Skippy through a numbing drug haze, Howard through living his life in safe banality, avoiding confrontation. Both Skippy and Howard endured distracting infatuation with unattainable princesses. Besides risking his fragile ego, Skippy risks a dangerous encounter with Carl, his rival for Lori’s affections. Howard risks the safety of his mundane relationship with his girlfriend and his stale job as a history teacher to follow the giddiness of an adolescent infatuation with Aurelia. For all their bravery in trying to attain their princesses, the failed knights suffer defeat in a world of amorphous grey dragons that can never be lanced and defeated. Whereas Skippy managed to escape to the other universe via death, Howard lives on in this universe facing the repercussions of a life disappointing himself and others. Both tainted knights who care too much in an uncaring world ultimately were destroyed by the amorphous dragon.
Both Skippy and Howard’s cowardice reverberated through others. After Skippy’s self-destruction, Ruprecht’s grief turned into obsession with finding the portal into another universe that has the answers. Lori, Skippy’s love interest, aim to slowly disappear from this universe. In a further demonstration of the entanglement of vibrating strings, Howard’s cowardice reverberated through time affecting Skippy in the form of the tragic ex-superstar Tom. Murray deftly creates a believably surrealistic effect that combines a quantum world with the macro world, as time slows for the drugged Skippy as he muses how the painkillers can help him in his travel to another universe. After Skippy made his successful journey through the black hole of death, Ruprecht’s search for a way to the other universe grew to a desperate intensity that results in a humorous adventure as the boys break into the girl’s school to seek the perfect point of entry to the other universe. What emerges is a hilarious sequence that ends with Rupert and his quartet sending a message to Skippy via the aching hybrid of the hopeful Pachelbel’s Canon and the idealistic BETHani song,
"If I had three wishes I would give away two,
Cos I only need one, cos I only want you."
Split into four movements, Hopeland, Heartland, Ghostland, and Afterland, Skippy Dies is a verbal symphony about the need to make sense of a chaotic world in which there is no clear good or bad, the vortex of change is unceasing, and nobody wins. What could be a Bildungsroman, full of laughable awkward moments of the foibles of self-discovery, ends up giving the impression that there is no answer or panacea to life’s difficulty. It is about self-delusion, the lifting of the veils of delusion, and the self-preserving need to go back into the delusional world. Sadly, it is also about the destruction of those who cannot hang on to the iron armor of illusion.
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.
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.