In this harrowing debut, 11-year-old Skunk Cunningham lies in a coma recounting the recent events of her neighborhood. The psychopathic Oswald sisters and their even-more-psychopathic father, Bob, have subjected the street to a cyclone of violence. The storm ultimately pulls in Skunk’s teenaged neighbor Rick Buckley, after one of the sisters accuses him of rape, and Rick becomes the "Broken" Buckley for which the book is named. While some listeners might find the grim procession of events dispiriting, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Performer Colin Moody does an excellent job conveying the emotion of the events and finding the right voice for each character.
Skunk Cunningham is an 11-year-old girl in a coma. She has a loving dad, an absent mother and a brother who plays more X-Box than is good for him. She also has the neighbors from hell: the five Oswald girls and their thuggish father Bob, vicious bullies all of them, whose reign of terror extends unchallenged over their otherwise quiet suburban street.
And yet terrifying though they undoubtedly are, the stiletto-wearing, cider-swilling Oswald girls are also sexy - so when Saskia asks shy, virginal Rick Buckley for a ride in his new car, he can't believe his luck. Too bad that Saskia can't keep her big mouth shut. When, after a quick fumble, she broadcasts Rick's deficiencies to anyone who will listen, it puts ideas into her younger sister's silly head - ideas that will see Rick dragged off to prison, humiliated, and ultimately, in his father's words, 'broken' by the experience.
From her hospital bed, Skunk guides us through the events that follow, as Saskia's small act of thoughtlessness slowly spreads through the neighborhood in a web of increasing violence. Skunk watches as her shabby, hardworking father finds love, only for her courageous, idealistic teacher to lose it; as poor 'Broken' Buckley descends into madness, while across the street her brother Jed makes his first adolescent forays into sex; and as her own gentle romance with soft-hearted, tough-talking Dillon struggles to survive against a backdrop that seamlessly combines the sublime and the ridiculous. As we inch ever closer to the mystery behind her coma, Skunk's innocence becomes a beacon by which we navigate a world as comic as it is tragic, and as effortlessly engaging as it is ultimately uplifting, in this brilliant and utterly original debut novel.
©2008 Daniel Clay; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
I'd recommend this book. Definitely has some unexpected twists and turns and is a bit dark in parts, but you can't put it down until you figure out how it all will end. There are some loose parallels to "To Kill a Mockingbird", but if you weren't a fan of that book, don't let that stop you. This is a modern day book with a suspensful plot.
I loved "To Kill a Mockingbird" and expected a similar story. But it is really nothing like Mockingbird. I really enjoyed it though and have been trying to figure out if I would have enjoyed it as much had I read it rather than listened to it. I very much enjoyed the narrator. He was perfect for the book. The story is at times rather intense but it's worth the ride.
"Powerful, shocking and beautiful"
This shocking story is told by Skunk Cunningham (so named because her mum liked the group), who is 11 years old and in a coma.
We do not know why she is there until towards the end of the story, but she tells us of the events leading up to it, starting with the violent beating of teenage neighbour Rick Buckley by another neighbour (Bob Oswald) for something that he didn’t do.
Rick then becomes the ‘Broken’ of the title, and referred to as Broken Buckley throughout.
Bob’s life however seems to continue reasonably unchanged – father to five daughters who are just as thuggishly violent as him. Drink, drugs and sex help the days pass for the Oswald girls, and they revel in their reign of terror over everyone they know – including Skunk who is in class with one of them.
Skunk wants to enjoy just being a kid, playing too much X-Box with her older brother, forming a crush on her teacher (who also happens to be the boyfriend of their Welsh au pair – needed because their mum ran away to Spain years ago) and riding out in the sun on her bike.
But, living on this rather down-trodden square in Southampton that is lorded over by the Oswalds, Skunk is privvy to more violence, swearing, sex and criminal activity than is good for her. And yet her narration still has a naivety about it, and a poetic repetition that is somehow childlike, and lures the reader to its shocking and dramatic climax.
This isn’t like a modern day To Kill A Mockingbird, this is a contemporary realisation – evident even in the names that have been used (eg Skunk = Scout). Daniel Clay has made no secret of the fact that this was the inspiration for the story.
I listened to the audiobook, and Colin Moody’s narration was just right – a clever mixture of ‘telling’ what was coming in an ‘unaccented’ voice, and then accents used for actual speech, or when Skunk was narrating.
"So insightful, a really good story"
The perspective it was written from, and the research that had obviously been carried out to make it credible. It also (sadly) illustrates some housing challenges in modern Britain.I did find the language a little challenging to begin with but to be honest it was justified in adding to the richness of the characters
The hope it gives us all and the importance of family.
The final scene when she wakes, or at least the internal dialogue is the decision to wake.
All of it for different reasons.
Not for those who cannot tolerate bad language.
"A huge disappointment"
This story started with a great deal of promise. A young innocent boy is attacked by a mindless thug and I could almost believe the many comparisons made to 'To kill a mockingbird'. Unfortunately it quickly descends into a depressing tale filled with mindless violence, idiotic police, and one of the most revolting sex scenes I have ever read. The young heroine (almost unbelievingly called Skunk) witnesses the initial attack and her father is a lawyer. This made me think he would play a pivotal role in this story. Unfortunately this was not the case and instead he was just as hopeless and depressing as all the other characters in this sorry tale. There were so many awful things going on at the end that I had complete sensory overload and lost my capacity to care.
"Dysfunctional Families, I should say so!!"
It was very tense throughout. It is a tough listen, but a real insight into how people behave when there are no boundaries, and when deprived of a loving and caring environment.
No, but he was superb in portraying so many different characters and personalities.
I think shocked more than moved. The whole production kept me on the edge of my seat.
This book is not an easy listen, with bad language all the time, and troubled characters. I would recommend it though as the writing is gripping and narration second to none.
The performance just didn't work with the story. The quality was inconsistent and the accents are very poor in places. This jarred and spoiled the story for me.
"Great story dodgy accents"
It could have ranked much higher if only the accents and pronounciation of local places was right
Skunk for her braveness
Get the local pronounciation of things right remove the fake West Country accent. This is not what local people in Hedge End or Southampton sound like unless the are over 70!
I loved the perspective the story was told from
"How easy it is to ruin peoples lives....Great book"
Didn't know what to expect with this book and I must admit, after the first 1/2 hour I still thought, "What am I listening to?". Then it changed to, this is a pretty good book and it's awfully well read. Finally, near the end it left my mouth open wondering how the bloody hell did all that happen, it was brilliantly done.
I'm glad I don't have neighbours like this. Excellent stuff
"Great Story, Lots of Swearing and violence though!"
Never read the book, but great listening, I really enjoyed the characters, although language bad, but that was part of the story, wouldn't have worked without it.
Loved the characters and various plots going on within different families
The scene in Broken's wardrobe towards the end, very worrying in places and I was gripped to see where it was going, and going to end.
Did make me nearly cry towards the end. Loved Skunk
In todays society, there are families like these popping up around my area, and elsewhere I should think. (Don't get me talking about benefits! ) Although this was at the worse end of the scale.
Thoroughly loved the book.
Did it meet my expectations ... Well I don't know what my expectations were, the book looked like an interesting mystery, and they talked about comedic elements. Well, there were a few dark comedy, cringe bits, but to be my mind it was not humorous.
Eleven year old Skunk tells the story of life in the square where she lives, how from a single minor event things start to spiral. I won't say too much about what happens, because I don't want to spoil it for future readers, but I am still up at two am because I have finish the book before I can sleep.
Narrator is very good, draws you in.
You quickly recognise the Oswald family, with youngest daughters sunrise and sunset, and know they are a month of Jeremy Kyle episodes in waiting. Every estate has an Oswald family.
I will certainly look for more be this author in future!
"Broken. can break your heart"
Be prepeared for twists of human minds. Love and sorrow, parents-children relationships will grip your attention and your emotions in one tight bound. One to read. One not to forget for a long time.
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