Monday 28 April 2008

Book Review: Jonathan Trigell - Boy A

Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and Waverton Good Read Award, I first came across this not as a book but a TV drama. Although I didn’t see the programme, I read the glowing reviews in the newspapers. The other thing that attracted me to this book was the subject matter. Not long ago I had a heated e-mail exchange with a friend of fashionista sister about the tragic James Bulger case and the release of his killers, which inspired this book.

The book is a look at the childhood, crime, imprisonment and release of Boy A written from his perspective. His crime is the murder of a child whilst a child himself. The book charts his entry back into the world and how he learns to interact with the world again with a new name - Jack, a new past and a job.

The book is not a long one, but the themes that Trigell touches on are varied enough to fit many psychology and sociology books. How do we deal with child offenders? What causes a child to murder? What about the abusers of that child, where is their punishment? Do such people deserve to be rehabilitated into society? The style in contrast is almost informal; cheeky in the way it phrases the writer’s observations.

When reading this book, you hope, for a change, that the story fades away to normality. Instead there is a terrible ascent to an ambiguous climax. It left me feeling that the write had copped out a little rather than be brave enough to show us how things turn out.

This book is not easy to read. There were moments when I was reluctant to finish the book. The task of reconciling your sympathy for the protagonist and your awareness of what he has done, influenced by the sheer horror of the original Bulger case, is difficult. Personally, I would be as interested in people’s reactions to the book as the story itself.

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