"Skippy Dies" which was up for consideration for this years Mann-Booker Prize is a dark, somewhat satirical novel which takes place at a boys' school in Dublin named Seabrook College. It is the story of 14 year old boys, a mixture of day and boarding at school run by the Paraclete fathers. Having worked with and around 14 year old students at a day/boarding school, and liking Irish humor with its dark undertones, I was drawn to this novel. It ran a bit too long, but these boys with their fantasies of drugs, sex, and rock and roll were spot on. The Skippy at its center is Daniel Juster who, no surprise, given the title, dies as the book opens. From thence, we go backwards to events leading up to the death. Who can fathom the minds of 14 year old boys?? Bodily function humor, no idea of what girls are really like, it is all here, a bit of Irish history thrown in as well. Parallel to Skippy's sad story is an equally sad history teacher named Howard, who cannot seem to break from the school and move on from his old-boy past. One keeps hoping for Howard to develop some backbone, hoping for that happy ending. The novel also accurately portrays the complicated relationship between boys and the priests who dominate them, along with the problem the clergy has had with pedophiles and sweeping the ugliness under the table. The book is well written but a tad too long, nevertheless a good read.
PS For those who enjoyed the book "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," there is a movie in the works starring Kate Winslet (who else but...).