This touching and uproarious novel by author Paul Murray made everyone’s best fiction of 2010 lists, including The Washington Post, Financial Times, Village Voice, and others. Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the mystery that links the boys of Dublin’s Seabrook College (Ruprecht Van Doren, the overweight genius obsessed with string theory; Carl, the teenager drug dealer and borderline psychotic; Philip Kilfether, the basketball-playing midget) to their parents and teachers in ways that no one could have imagined.
This unique production of Murray’s heartfelt exploration of the pain, joy, and beauty of adolescence features an all-star narrating cast of 16 Audible favorites: John Keating, Graeme Malcom, Khristine Hvam, Nicola Barber, Fred Berman, Clodagh Bowyer, Terry Donnelly, Sean Gormley, Lawrence Lowry, Paul Nugent, Tim Smallwood, Fiona Walsh, Fiana Toibin, Declan Sammon, Heather O'Neill, and Ed Malone.
©2010 Paul Murray (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Hilarious, haunting, and heartbreaking, it is inarguably among the most memorable novels of the year to date." (Booklist)
"Dazzling... If killing your protagonist with more than 600 pages to go sounds audacious, it's nothing compared with the literary feats Murray pulls off in this hilarious, moving and wise book." (Washington Post Book World)
"Extravagantly entertaining." (The New York Times Book Review)
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.
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.
Really dark comedy
The narrator(s) were FANTASTIC! They really made the story come to life.
Getting to hear all the different voices narrating the different characters really brought the story to life. If I were to just read the story, I would have never used any of the accent.
Skippy. It was really gripping to hear how badly he wanted to be accepted and wanted to be noticed.
Wonderful listen. The narrators really brought the story to life.
Some complained about the length of the book, but for me that feeling only lasted through part I, which I felt dragged a bit. The performances added much to the experience of the novel, given that the various accents (Irish old men, Mario, Miss MacIntyre, etc) were well done and enriched the text. Actually, Mario's narrator made him into a rather Fez-like character from That 70s Show, which wasn't a bad thing.
Negatives: Because of the way the author played with sequence, I didn't find myself unfulfilled by certain glitches in the plot until the end, when I was sure they would never be resolved. SPOILER ALERT (skip the rest of this paragraph if you like): I had a hard time with the following: Where did Skippy get so many of the sedatives? Wouldn't the police have traced that? Did he OD on purpose or not? The police would surely have been more involved in the story behind his death. Also, the very last portion of the book containing the redemption moments fell flat for me; Lori becomes a real person and convinces Ruprecht to live on and be fulfilled? She's going to "help" him? Carl is redeemed somewhat by trying to allow himself to die as pennance? No, really, he's just schizophrenic, right? And finally, Howard is redeemed in the eyes of the school -- no longer a coward -- for running into a burning building to save Carl? Hmm. Don't think so. Still, the lack of real closure on some of these characters didn't hurt the integrity of the novel any more than such failures ever do... I find many of my favorite books a little unsatisfying to me at the end. END SPOILER
Good things: Some real comedy intertwined in the horrors (Greg the Automater, in particular). Excellent portrayals of the crazy world of young boys (and girls) and how they torture and love each other. Satisfying emotional content, and some historical learning material, too. I have no reference point for parochial schools and the sexual frustration borne out of single-gendered environments, but I think it was painted well here. I also think the handling of the characters who considered or perpetrated sexual abuse was nuanced and interesting. In fact, the real villains here were not the those men at all, as it turned out...
The whole cast of characters are excellent. I could picture them all.
Dennis & Mario crack me up. There are so many... there is no way to point out just one.
The characters are well developed by the author.... So many scenes, so little time. What can I say?
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wince... and you won't want it to end.
The only reason I thought about listening to this book is because I recently had a dog name Skippy who I had to put down. I thought it was about a dog... but read a review and became intrigued. I am so glad I did. This is one of the best books I've ever listened to. Thank you Paul Murray. I want more.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
I kept hoping this book would turn around. "Skippy Dies" peers into abyss of puberty at a private Catholic boys school in Dublin. It starts with Skippy's death, and then 2/3rds leads up to his death, and the final third is about the aftermath and impact it had on his friends, teachers and school.
There were parts that were funny, and the talent show almost pulled it together for me, but all the characters (students, teachers, parents, school administrators, alumni and priests) are cluelessly going through the motions, and contributing to the little hell called Seabrook.
The performance was fabulous and kept me engaged, and hoping. If I had read on paper, I wouldn't have gotten through the first 50 pages.
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