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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.
I think much of how you may feel about this book depends on what you're looking for in your next listen.
I wanted something amusing, entertaining, light, but also not entirely brainless. For me, this fit the bill really nicely.
The narration in this particular novel makes me a bit sad for the people who only read it on paper because it really is that cleverly done. The voices are great, recognizable, distinctive, and so well done. An excellent group of narrators who did the book full justice.
That said... Skippy Dies is about a group of 14 year old boys in a Catholic school in Ireland and about some of the teachers - one in particular. For me, the author did a great job of showing how 14 year old boys want badly to experience adult things but still cling to some very childlike fantasies.
One of my personal favorite passages is when Mario, one of the boys, is confident that he'll have sex at a school dance because he has his lucky condom in his wallet - he's had it for 3 years. When the other boys point out the obvious irony and declare the wallet unlucky for condoms, one states that he bets the condom is in his wallet right now, whistling the tune from The Great Escape and digging its way out with a coffee stirrer. For some reason, this struck me as particularly funny coming from a 14 year old boy.
It also has its bittersweet/tender moments as the boys deal with death, sickness, guilt, etc. But that isn't an overly heavy theme that weighs down the book. I did not find myself bored as I believe some reviewers did.
In sum: the book is entertaining, humorous, clever, extremely well narrated and definitely worth a credit at 23 hours. I gave it 5/5 because I fully appreciated the writing and narration.
73 of 75 people found this review helpful
I just finished this book and it is one of the most insightful contemporary novels I've read recently.
That said, I sympathize with the readers who stopped listening after a couple of hours and gave it 1-2 stars as I would have. The beginning does seem like a simple retelling of adolescent banter and escapades that got irritating and old very quickly. I thought I'd misunderstood the description.
But I kept listening and found the book incredible. Murray's story presents the odd and at times unexplainable elements of human nature in a post-modern age. Who "wins" and who "gets ahead." And how many of us never really see what's truly going on -- even though we're 'good' people.
So, if you like cultural insights - and can accept the obnoxious, humorous, and tragic antics of both adolescents -- and adults. Then you may enjoy this book.
47 of 49 people found this review helpful
This is the second time I listened to this book. It is one of my most favorite books ever! It is a laugh-out-loud kind of book while at the same time, really gets you thinking about stuff. While it does take place at a boy's boarding school, and many of the characters are around 14 years old, don't let that determine whether you read the book. It is definitely not a young adult book! The other characters are the teachers, the principal, the priest, the swimming coach, parents, and so on. It tells the story of Skippy's demise and how it affects everyone afterward. Along the way you hear stories from history, mythology, ghost stories, scientific theories, and philosophical musings. I liked how one of the teachers had been a student at the school he now teaches at, and from the story of his own time there and then the current story of Skippy and his friends, you get this glimpse into how our past is always reaching into our present, and we decide if we are going to let those childish choices define us, or if we are going to chalk it up to immaturity and just move on. It frustrates the reader because you get all these glimpses into what's really going on, and then you see the impotence of the adults in dealing with it. All that seriousness is lightened by the boys and their obsession with sex (Mario is just too funny in that "oh god!" way) and their conclusions about life based on their limited knowledge and experience. I don't know how the book would read in print, but the audio book, being narrated by a cast of characters, is absolutely perfect!! Highly, highly recommended! I've been singing the praises of this book for years and nobody I know has ever taken me seriously, maybe because the setting seems an unlikely place for a story they could relate to. Well, they are missing out! It's just so GOOD!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I was frankly blown away by the production value of this audio book. With a large and talented cast reading the various parts, it felt like I was listening to the audio version of a well-done play. Kudos to the cast for an excellent job. It was probably the most enjoyable audio book that I've heard in the past two years of my audible.com membership.
Now for the story...
At first I found it a bit boring or let's say, not engaging. 14 year old boys in a Catholic middle school in Ireland isn't what I would typically expect to dive into. Furthermore, having a main character die at the beginning and then spending over half the book in a rewind of events leading up to the death isn't something I would expect to enjoy either. But the wit and believability of the author's story finally engaged me and I couldn't wait to get back into it. I also enjoyed the addition of Ruprecht's pseudo-science of string theory and black holes. Lot's of interesting topics were introduced which helped keep my interest up. Of course, the memories of boyhood awkwardness and self-absorption were relevant to the plot.
All in all, it was more than interesting and it kept me reading more and more. The ending wasn't my favorite part, but seemed somehow appropriate for this "slice of life" narrative. I didn't expect the world to be saved or a new theory of the afterlife to emerge and it didn't.
I recommend this book.
19 of 20 people found this review helpful
I read this novel a few weeks after it was first published and loved it. I couldn’t wait to hear the audio version but I was very skeptical. I just didn’t think it could live up to the high expectations I had for it. I was wrong!
This is one of those truly rare examples of an audio book actually being better than the print version which, given the scope, depth, and ambition of the prose, is really saying something. This is due in large part to the fact that Irish actors and actresses were used to narrate the main characters instead of Americans “doing” Irish accents, a big pet peeve of mine. It helps to lend an aura of authenticity to the dialogue.
The performances are excellent as well. The parts of the book featuring long conversational exchanges between Skippy and his Seabrook friends are lively, hilarious, profane, and melancholy. Scenes like these are better served by this mult-cast format to get a feel for each student’s distinct personality, as well as to keep track of who’s speaking, which may have proved difficult for a single narrator. The characterizations are, to my ear, pitch-perfect. By that I mean the voices used were eerily similar to the voices I had in my head on my first reading of this book and that almost NEVER happens when I listen to the audio version, and I listen to a lot of audiobooks. It's better than I could have hoped for.
Despite some of the dark subject matter, this is actually a fun listen thanks to the brilliant narration.
I’ve already started on my second listen. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
I've been a life-long reader and long time Audible customer. I've never been compelled to write a review before this book.
It is -truly- a snapshot of life. With all it's absurdity, hilarity, sadness, poignancy, contradiction and discovery.
The characters are real. The challenges they encounter will resonate with all men (and, I'm sure, quite a few women). The cast and narration is top notch. The writing is a delight. Murray masterfully carries the Irish lilt onto the written page and there were several times where I thought "oh, he's a clever one with the turn of a phrase."
The first 2/3's of the book are hilarious and I was surprised by the change in tenor once the final 1/3 began. I shouldn't have been. After all, Skippy DOES die.
Kudos to Murray and the cast. They bring modern teenage life to bear in the harsh, unforgiving light of life and they don't pull any punches. Best book I've ever downloaded.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
I found this tale to be a bit long winded, but anyone who has ever been a teenager ;-) or has raised a teenager can relate to it. The story is wonderfully narrated, which absolutely helps, but the author really delves into these teenagers - almost too deeply.
These are some seriously disturbed people and some of it is very difficult to listen to, however the situations the author has put these kids into is very vivid. Even if you aren't Irish, Catholic or a boarding school alumni, you can easily imagine how the circumstances could play out.
23 of 25 people found this review helpful
I loved how well this book was narrated by a cast of excellently chosen readers. Great way to present a book in audio form.
I felt that the first half of the book had a lot of humor and I often laughed out loud while listening.
However, midway through, this book turned extremely dark. Almost too dark for my taste. It was not easy to listen to and I had trouble going on.
Curiousity got the better of me and I endured to the end. This book is not for the faint hearted. Very dark, haunting.
A lot to consider and I'm glad my teenage years are far behind me.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
--as the author writes, but this is not a cliched coming of age novel. Characters of several ages are growing up--or not, coming to term with the adult world--or not.
I love Brit lit/campus comedies, all things Irish and deadpan, and most Catholic comedy. I've also laboured in the secondary education system. "Skippy" captures humour and pathos suggested by all those labels.
I don't usually like multiple narrators, but that approach works well enough here, though it took me an hour's listening before the narrator switching ceased jarring my listen. I would have preferred one excellent Irish-English narrator reading all voices.
If you think the fresh simile dead, this romp with the language will change your mind - It's kind of "a rave to the music of time" or an Irish Alexander MacCall Smith on speed.
32 of 36 people found this review helpful
This book was a dream. Yes it has a difficult start, but if you stay with it, you will be rewarded. You will notice that every unfavorable reviewer did not finish this book. I believe it is only fair to review a book you have read to the end.
So now having finished this book I can say that I too thought it wonderful, very insightful, about what goes on and on in our minds and hearts, the push and pull of it all. I am such a fan.
I too loved the narration, great work!
24 of 27 people found this review helpful