About the Author
Paul Murray (born 1975) is an Irish novelist. He studied English literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and subsequently completed his Masters in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Murray has written two novels: his first, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2003 and nominated for the Kerry Irish Fiction Award. His second novel Skippy Dies was long listed for the 2010 Booker Prize and the 2010 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic fiction. It also is on Time Magazine’s List of Top 10 Novels of 2010, see TekRead Famous Book Lists
Nicola Barber , Fred Berman , Clodagh Bowyer , Terry Donnelly , Sean Gormley , Khristine Hvam , John Keating , Lawrence Lowry , Graeme Malcolm , Paul Nugent
Summary from the Sunday Times by Adam Lively
The publisher’s summary of Skippy Dies warns of a dark comedy with supernatural overtones about a group of boarding-school boys, interwoven with the hapless romantic adventures of an emotionally inadequate history master. It sounds as though we are being invited into stereotyped fictional territory. But, in fact, the novel is a triumph — it is maybe too long and suffers in places from unoriginality, but it is also brimful of wit, narrative energy and a real poetry and vision. In the boys, especially, Paul Murray proves that he can conjure up a whole psychic world, from its darkest, most savagely funny cruelty to its wildest flights of fantasy-fuelled innocence.
The novel is set in an arch-traditionalist school in Dublin’s posh suburbs, and at the heart of the story is 14-year-old Ruprecht Van Doren (“Van Blowjob”) — mathematical genius, French horn player and devoted online acolyte of a Stanford professor whose new version of String Theory seems to hold out an enticing prospect: access to the 11th dimension. Ruprecht’s best friend is Skippy, whose story is the blackest strand in the book: his mother is dying of cancer, the gym teacher has been touching him up and, worst of all, he has fallen self-destructively in love with the man-eater-in-training at the neighbouring girls’ school. When Skippy dies of an overdose (during a doughnut-eating competition), the comedy of Ruprecht’s earnestly crazy science experiments in the school basement turns to poignant tragedy, as he cranks his tinfoil contraption for one last attempt to reach his lost friend through “the veil”.
Parallel to Skippy’s tragic opera is the bathetic cautionary tale of the history teacher Howard (“Howard the Coward”), who pursues his own muse, his version of Robert Graves’s “White Goddess”, into a personal hell of middle-aged disillusion. Although Murray’s writing never lets up on its energy and invention (and though there is some wonderfully broad satire at the expense of the smoothly evil acting head, who plots the takeover of the school in the name of modernity and money), the “adult” portions of the book lack the freshness and vividness of those given to their pupils. We seem stuck firmly here in Amis-Lodge-Sharpe-Hornby land.
For all its English influences, Skippy Dies is set very firmly in Ireland. In an interview, Murray has hinted that the satire on the traditional school ruined by cynical modernisers is written with half an eye to Ireland’s breakneck economic boom and subsequent collapse. Those broader resonances may be there for the author, but what I think most readers will take away from the book is the unflagging entertainment of its intelligence, its psychological insight and its range of reference.
A brief summary can’t do justice to the variety of themes that Murray tosses about — cosmology, the first world war, role-playing computer games, prehistoric portals to fairy kingdoms etc. — or the skill with which he connects them up, as in the beautiful moment when (for reasons too complicated and zany to explain) Ruprecht and friends do the long-dreamt-of thing and break into the girls’ school next door. They find the same landscape of dormitories and teenage mess as in their own world, except that it is all, well, different — and for a glorious moment they think that they might actually have entered the 11th dimension.
Most of all, though, what readers will take away is the laugh-out-loud hilarity of some of the boys’ dialogue, as in the neat deconstruction by one of them of Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled, proving once and for all that it is a poem about anal sex.
Audible listeners rated this audio book at 3.61 with 124 ratings. This is a very polarizing novel.
You either loved it or hated it. This is demonstrated by the audible reviews 1 or 2 stars if you didn’t like it or the 4 or 5 stars if you did. There are 13 positive reviews and 16 negative.
This is a long audio book some 23 hours and 36 minutes long. As stated above you will probably love or hate the book. The book is very well written with excellent characterization and plotting. It is an innovative tragicomedy, intricate and interesting.
The audio book production is good. The choice of many narrators is unusual and works well to enhance the audio book with one exception. Sometimes the many narrators make it difficult to know who is speaking. Overall it is well read.
We at TekRead fell into the “Love It” category knowing that not all of you will agree. It is a very literary work, but some may find the language too explicit. We feel the book would not work without the raw language that makes it so authentic.
Where to Get It
This audio book was published by Audible, Inc. and is not widely available outside Audible channels, notably Audible.com and iTunes. The buy links are shown below along with the Audible summary and audio sample. The audio book is discounted to $20.96 for current audible subscribers.