Synopses & Reviews
Rising star Meg Rosoff delivers a piercing and magical story about friendship and humanity.
In the not too distant future, a one-hundred-year-old man called H sails the eastern coast of England with his godson. H recalls when he himself was sixteen his godson's age as they search for the site of H's life-altering friendship with a boy named Finn. Finn lives alone on an isolated slip of land and follows no rules: he spends his days swimming, fishing, and collecting driftwood for his tiny beach hut. H, on the other hand, is an upper-class boarding school boy stifled by monotony and endless rules. They meet by chance on the beach, and H is immediately awed by (and jealous of) Finn's way of life. They strike up an unlikely friendship but the gap between their lives becomes difficult to bridge, and before long the idyll that nurtured their relationship is shattered by heart-wrenching scandal.
Meg Rosoff was formerly a YA author, but her work transcends categorization and we are delighted to bring it to adult readers for the first time. What I Was is a timeless, enthralling story destined to become a classic.
"Former YA author Rosoff delivers an affecting buddy story about two adolescent boys in 1960s Britain. An unnamed man recounts his time as a disgruntled student at St. Oswald's boarding school; upon ditching an outdoor physical education class jog, he stumbles upon a mysterious fellow teen named Finn who lives alone and off the grid in a hut by the sea. The protagonist, enraptured by his newfound friend, makes it his business to spend as much time as possible with Finn, a major challenge considering school curfews and that the hut can only be accessed during low tide. Weeks go by and Finn falls ill, setting the stage for a surprising revelation that will dramatically transform both boys. Rosoff's unconventional coming-of-age tale is elegantly crafted, though some readers might be turned off by the narrator's unrelenting cynicism (particularly in his handling of another Oswald schoolboy), and the warning shots the narrator fires off about global warming are unnecessary. Nonetheless, Rosoff elegantly portrays how we often become who we need to be." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An extraordinary account of an obsessive friendship between a prep-school misfit and a beautiful orphan....Great Expectations meets Death in Venice in this visceral, intensely surprising tale from Rosoff." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Rosoff...creates a coming-of-age tale full of mystery and angst. Relying on a narrator looking back at his life, the reader is in for an intriguing read. Recommended." Library Journal
Set in the 1960s at an English boarding school, this novel chronicles an unlikely friendship between two boys and a scandal that shatters the idyll that has shielded and nurtured their relationship.
A piercing, magical story about?a life-altering friendship
Toward the end of his life, H looks back on the relationship that has shaped and obsessed him for nearly a century. It began many years earlier at St. Oswalds, a dismal boarding school on the coast of England, where the young H came face- to-face with an almost unbearably beautiful boy living by himself at the edge of the sea.
At first, the mysterious Finn appears to have no pasthis home is an ancient fishermans hut with a woodstove, a case of books, striped blankets, and a cat.
H insinuates his way into Finns life, stalking him with perfect patience until an unlikely friendship is kindled; a confused idyll of ?devotion and longing set against a background of blazing wood fires and fishing expeditions.
Their friendship deepens, offering H both the freedom and the human connection that has always eluded him. But in a world of conformity, can one eccentric idyll be ?allowed to survive?
Read Meg Rosoff's posts on the Penguin Blog.
Finn was a beautiful orphan. H was a prep school misfit. On a September afternoon many years ago they met on a beach on the coast of England, near the ancient fisherman’s hut Finn was squatting in with his woodstove, a case of books, a striped blanket and a cat. H insinuates his way into Finn’s life—his blazing wood fires and fishing expeditions. Their friendship deepens, offering H the freedom and human connection that has always eluded him. But all too soon the idyll of their relationship is shaken by a heart-wrenching scandal.
What I Was is the unforgettable story of H at the end of his life looking back on this friendship, which has shaped and obsessed him for nearly a century.
About the Author
Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and had careers in publishing and advertising before she moved to London in 1989, where she lives now with her husband and daughter.