Elizabeth L, May 26, 2011 (view all comments by Elizabeth L)
At its most basic, this novel chronicles the declension (and, unfortunate, sacralization) of an all-boys Irish (obviously Catholic) boarding school in a contemporary time and place where even suggesting the existence of such a space seems anachronistic. But, at its most epic, this novel is much more. It's a parable of science versus religion, traditional versus contemporary. In a somewhat predictable way (particularly in an Irish setting) it is the twinned virtues--love and humor--that transcend the otherwise insurmountable dichotomies the book sets into play, emerging triumphantly from the embers of all else that has been destroyed. Beyond such abstractions (and I have no idea why I'm reviewing a book that is in many ways intensely realistic in such grandiose and vague terms), the book is a page-turner. It envelops the reader wholly into the glory that is existence and the agony that inevitably travels alongside it. It makes you remember exactly the toils and pleasures of adolescence and simultaneously question just how far you've actually traveled beyond it. To raise one final dichotomy, from the earliest pages in the novel (wherein Skippy, as the title announces, dies), this is a novel about life.
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simmonsr, May 14, 2011 (view all comments by simmonsr)
I read this because it was one the Tournament of Books choices, and I am happy to say that I am glad for it. The book is a "coming of age" novel that takes place in an all boys private school, and follows the foibles of a cast of young men at the "voice cracking" stage of life, along with some adult characters that are well fleshed out. Full of poignant passages and lovely writing. Once the end came I found myself wanting to know more of what awaits in the future for this cast of characters.
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Matthew Yasuoka, March 15, 2011 (view all comments by Matthew Yasuoka)
This book is in a word amazing. It is so beautiful, magnificent, and lovely, and the characters are so memorable and relatable that upon finishing it I had the strongest desire to turn back to page one and start again.
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ditto, January 28, 2011 (view all comments by ditto)
The narrative point of view was refreshing, and the mix of whimsy with a dose of reality was captivating. It's been a long time since I've read something I craved coming back to, but this book made me remember.
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Talk about a spoiler! Yes, Skippy dies. (Or maybe he doesn't. I'll never tell.) But the fact of his death isn't nearly as important as the why, which Paul Murray's Dublin-set novel explores with a dizzying mix of hilarity and tragedy that's never less than thrilling.
by Booklist (starred review),
"At 672 pages, this is an extremely ambitious and complex novel, filled with parallels, with sometimes recondite references to Irish folklore, with quantum physics, and with much more. Hilarious, haunting, and heartbreaking, it is inarguably among the most memorable novels of the year to date."
by The Sunday Times,
"The novel is a triumph....Brimful of wit, narrative energy and a real poetry and vision."
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
"[A] splendid, sardonic magnum opus....Long and impossibly involved, but also beautifully written, with much truth and not a wasted word. A superb imagining of a strange world — that of pimply-faced kids, that is."
by The Guardian (U.K.),
"One of the most enjoyable, funny and moving reads of this young new year."
"An utterly engrossing read."
by The Times (U.K.),
"Noisy, hilarious, tragic, and endlessly inventive...Murray's writing is just plain brilliant."
by The Irish Times,
"A blast of a book."
Why does Skippy, a 14-year-old boy at Dublin's venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop? Why Skippy dies and what happens next unravels a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined.
"For its darkness and its glee, I loved this novel." —Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbras 24-Hour Bookstore A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from a hotel room that was the site of a famous murder/suicide fifteen years earlier, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with the dark and giddy pop culture pleasures of The Shining, Agatha Christie, and Glee
"For its darkness and its glee, I loved this novel." —Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbras 24-Hour Bookstore
Fifteen years ago, a murder/suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it. Now hundreds of high school musicians, including quiet bassoonist Rabbit Hatmaker and his brassy diva twin, Alice, have gathered in its cavernous, crumbling halls for the annual Statewide festival; the grown-up bridesmaid has returned to face her demons; and a snowstorm is forecast that will trap everyone on the grounds. Then one of the orchestras stars disappears—from room 712. Is it a prank, or has murder struck the Bellweather once again?
The search for answers entwines a hilariously eccentric cast of characters—conductors and caretakers, failures and stars, teenagers on the verge and adults trapped in memories. For everyone has come to the Bellweather with a secret, and everyone is haunted.
Full of knowing nods to the shivery pleasures of suspense and the transporting power of music, this is a wholly winning new novel from a writer lauded as “charming” (Los Angeles Times), “witty” (O, The Oprah Magazine), and “whimsical” (People).
Why does Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublins venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop?
Could it have something to do with his friend Ruprecht Van Doren, an overweight genius who is determined to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory?
Could it involve Carl, the teenage drug dealer and borderline psychotic who is Skippys rival in love?
Or could “the Automator”—the ruthless, smooth-talking headmaster intent on modernizing the school—have something to hide?
Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the subject of this dazzling and uproarious novel, unraveling a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined. With a cast of characters that ranges from hip-hop-loving fourteen-year-old Eoin “MC Sexecutioner” Flynn to basketball playing midget Philip Kilfether, packed with questions and answers on everything from Ritalin, to M-theory, to bungee jumping, to the hidden meaning of the poetry of Robert Frost, Skippy Dies is a heartfelt, hilarious portrait of the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, and a tragic depiction of a world always happy to sacrifice its weakest members. As the twenty-first century enters its teenage years, this is a breathtaking novel from a young writer who will come to define his generation.
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