It would not be unfair to say that Steve Cockayne is a superlative
writer. The book takes the reader on a journey from a genteel
upper middle-class world of tea and Tiffin to the depths of
absolute madness. Or does it? It's difficult to discuss the
book without giving too much of the plot away, so you can
just skip to the 'buy this book' bit at the end if you don't
want it spoilt...
the start of the book you're thinking here is a bog standard
Alice in Wonderland meets The Famous Five rip-off.
Robert and Kenny are two brothers living in Hedley House,
at the start of the Second World War. Through the gate in
their garden they are able to enter the land of Aboria which
is populated by the Aborians and the Barbarians who are separated
by a lake. The land also is host to Tommy Pelling, a wood
cutter who appears to be immortal, and Davy Hearn, who is
in league with the Barbarians. The boys defend the borders
of Aboria and wonder about the Good People who have lived
beneath the hill even before the Romans came.
boys' lives are changed forever with the loss of their parents
in an accident and the arrival of two refugee girls, Janny
Grogan and Nadia. With the boys on the cusp of manhood, the
girls form the basis of the boys' first sexual awakenings.
At first, things continue in a similar vein as the boys
introduce the girls to Aboria, but as the boys grow older
things start to unravel.
is where the strength of Cockayne's writing really comes to
the fore as the reality of Aboria comes into question. Kenny
holds on to the reality of the land even to his death, whilst
others around him start to question whether it is just a child's
game which they have to put behind them as they grow older.
Kenny's defence of the land leads to tragedy and death.
kept finding myself thinking Kenny's as mad as a hatter, but
just when you think you have a handle on the book Cockayne
throws in a line which makes you question whether Aboria really
exists. It a bit like Lost, in that, you just get comfortable
with what you think you know about the state of Kenny's mind
when you're given another piece of information or the reaction
of another character which brings all you thought you knew
into doubt. Even when it is certain that Kenny has suffered
some sort of psychotic break, Cockayne never lets you get
away so easily.
book is written in the first person, being a fictitious narrative
that Kenny, now an old man, is writing to his great-nephew
Jamie, partly as an explanation of Aboria, but also because
he intends to leave The Great Book of Arboria to the child.
The book is an ageless account which is added to by each generation
found the book riveting in its originality, especially as
the author didn't take the easy way out in the end and provide
simple answers to the events in the book. He has a good ear
for the voices of his characters and each stood out as separate
thing I didn't get was that on the back of the book it says
that it is intended for the over twelve's. Whilst I would
agree that, due to some of the scenes in the book, no one
younger than this should read this, I think that it give the
wrong impression of the story. I certainly would have no problems
in recommending this book to an adult audience.
for all those that skipped to this part, go and buy this release.
It's defiantly the most original and gripping book for adolescents
I have read this year.
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