Saturday, 1 September 2007

What I Was by Meg Rosoff

What I Was
Meg Rosoff
Penguin €??

THE ENDING is what makes a story great or little, and until the end, Meg Rosoff's The Way I Was is great.

The narrator, Hilary, is miserable in a freezing, ritual-bound sea-coast boarding school of the 1960s.

He's on his last chance - he's been expelled from two previous schools - but he sneaks out and meets Finn, who lives all alone in a wooden chalet on an island reached by a tidal causeway.

Hilary joins Finn on secret expeditions in this understated love story. Finn lives a Boy's Own life, without school or family, living from work on market stalls in town, and longlining for fish.

Finn can't believe that Hilary thinks it's an accomplishment to be a lazy student, and teaches him how to sail, manage a kayak, fish and work for money.

They go hunting for a mediaeval town lost under the sea. "Can you really hear the bells?" Hilary asks, and Finn says, yes, of course.

Rosoff is best known for How I Live Now, a much talked-about 'crossover' novel: a children's book also read by adults, about a 21st-century world war.

How I Was is a winningly told story, and deserves the fabulous sales it's already achieving.
4 stars

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