Barnaby Brocket is born into a very normal family. Mr & Mrs Brocket pride themselves on how normal they are…in fact, you could say, that they are desperate and obsessed with being normal.
I have already edited this post several times because I don’t want to give away any of the details about why Barnaby is not normal, although I’ve just realised that the cover kind of gives it away BIG time!
The tone of this book is light-hearted and full of humour, but it is also rather awful. Awful because of the parents – they’re ghastly. Truly shockingly awful. I gasped out loud at the terrible thing they did to their own son.
Although Boyne has exaggerated the ‘bad parent’ type, it is sadly a type you can recognise. The parent whose love is conditional on how well the child does at school, the parent who is so absorbed in their own life and their own needs that the children always come in second best, the ignored child, the guilted child, the child who is judged by their looks, their sexuality, their ability to please the parent and those children forced to parent themselves – just to name a few.
Sadly, Barnaby’s adventures show him a lot of these dysfunctional families.
The joy and hope comes from how all the people Barnaby meet cope with and rise above their various situations. How they all embrace their differences and take pride in themselves for who they are and what they can do.
I read this book over two weeks ago and I’m still mulling over it. It had quite an emotional impact. I found it impossible to emulate Boyne’s light & easy writing style to review this. He obviously has a talent for writing about pretty heavy issues in a way that is completely accessible with humour and grace. And hope.
The story is aimed at younger readers so some of the observations and morals are fairly clearly spelled out for an older reader, but I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-told story about courage, resilience and human nature.
Published by Random House in August with a lovely cover design by Oliver Jeffers.