Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Boy A – Jonathan Trigell

Crime Fiction
5*s

A hard-hitting yet compelling novel examining what it means to be imprisoned as a child and released under a false identity. Boy A is one of two boys tried and convicted of the murder of another child. Although there are echoes of a trial here in the UK this isn’t in anyway an examination of that crime with much of the book concentrating on what happens next.

Boy A chooses a new name, Jack Burridge, to preserve his anonymity which is part of the terms of his release and then with the help of his ‘uncle’ Terry who had been a member of staff at the home he was first sent to follow his conviction. One of the minimal number of people who know Jack’s true identity. Jack has a job but first he must learn what it is like to live in a world he last left as a child.

The book skips backwards and forwards through the time periods from before Boy A met Boy B to after he left the adult prison with his new name. Each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet starting with A is for Apple. A Bad Apple. All the way through to Z, which is for Zero in case you are wondering. Just finding the titles that match the content of each chapter must have been a challenge and the sparse language used with its short sentences is perfect for the subject matter. This book feels like a work of art as well as a captivating tale.

Fortunately, given the tough subject matter, the torn sympathies as Boy A’s life is revealed through not just his own eyes, but later on, his father’s too, there are some humorous parts to the book too, most predictably when Jack meets a girl and the attraction is mutual, but most often it is bittersweet humour with a shared moment with a cellmate before his monotonous life rolls onwards.

As we see the horrors Jack endured in prison it is almost odd that my sympathies were highest when he starts his new job and makes friends, and of course a girlfriend Michelle. It is here that it becomes apparent how hard it is to hide your entire life up to a point in your twenties. As Jack becomes close to those around him, his enormous secret puts a boundary up between them as he unwillingly hands out lies to cover the truth.

But nor is this book just about Boy A, Terry and his life at the point where they overlap tells a different story, a fairly normal one of a broken marriage leading to a strained relationship with his own son as he also guards the truth and builds the lies of the life he hopes to see prove that rehabilitation is possible.

The way the stories of Boy A, his parents, Boy B, Terry the psychologist along with Jack’s new friends and his girlfriend all intertwine, create a thought-provoking and compelling read. The book is just the right length the author resisting the urge to brow beat the reader and the ending perfectly pitched. A book to ponder over and in the end marvel at how in the right hands, such an emotive topic can be explored.

Boy A was my thirteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in April 2015.

mount-tbr-2017
 

 

First Published UK: 2004
Publisher: Serpent’s Tale
No of Pages:  256
Genre: Crime Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

25 thoughts on “Boy A – Jonathan Trigell

  1. This book has been on my radar, Cleo, and it certainly does sound compelling. I especially like it that we get to see other dimensions of Jack, and we get a look at how hard it really is to start over again after time in prison.

    1. I think you’d appreciate the care that has gone into creating this novel Margot – even the headings of the chapters are meaningful and not the gimmick they could have been in a less thoughtful book. It really did bring home what a life of anonymity might look like.

  2. If it wasn’t for your review, I would’ve completely passed this book by based on the cover and title…I’m so glad I didn’t! I hadn’t heard of this but I’m definitely going to look into it as I have a huge interest in kids who’ve killed being sent to adult prisons, whether rehabilitation is effective, and sending them into society. Your review is excellent!

    1. It is this sort of comment that makes blogging so worthwhile Renee – I’m so glad you found this through my blog, it’s an area I’m interested in too so I’ve read a number of different books on the subject – I hope you enjoy this one if you get to read it. It definitely looks at the difficulties that would be encountered after release.

  3. I was going to say it sounds a bit like Humber Boy B, and then spotted that WordPress has brought that up as one of your “related” posts. From your review though, this one sounds like it might be a bit more thoughtful?

    1. Yes the linking rarely works but today it did! I think this book goes for a more muted look at what life would be like after release from prison when incarceration starts in childhood, but it is still a story so we have some more melodramatic events to keep the plot moving.

  4. I assume this was based in some way on the awful Jamie Bulger murder. There is a book by Elizabeth George called THIS BODY OF DEATH which is also “inspired” by Jamie’s murder. Although it was tightly-plotted and well-written, I had a hard time reading it because of the omnipresent backstory.

    1. Yes this was written about twelve years after that murder and I have no doubt that the inspiration for Boy A’s life was that crime. I didn’t read the Elizabeth George book so can’t say how it compares but the victim in this book isn’t a small boy along with other different key changes. I think the author was trying to examine what life would be like with such a deed being in the background. but of course the mind automatically wanders to the horror of that crime.

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