Boy by James Hanley
Publisher: Penguin Books | 1992 (first published 1931) | 191 pages
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Well, I can say that Boy by Irish writer, James Hanley is quite a riveting book. It’s easy to read and the language is simple. In fact, it only took 10 days for James Hanley to complete the book. That’s rather interesting, isn’t it?
It’s about a young boy, Arthur Fearon, who is approaching his 13th birthday. However, he is absolutely devastated because his parents are going to take him away from school and make him work to earn some money. He has to pass an examination first, and then only can he leave school. He’s a smart kid and he did pass the exam.
His bad-tempered father took him to work at the docks. He managed to be picked on to work in a stinking bilge tank and later in a hot boiler. But, he gave up in the end. The work was just too hard and there were bullies who picked on him on his first day of work. Thus, to escape his father’s wrath and further work at the docks, Arthur hid himself in a ship, the Hernian, which was going to set sail soon.
He thought life was good when he was given a job on the ship. He had high expectations and intended on fulfilling them. Nevertheless, the other sailors did not give him an easy time and a couple of them even tried to take advantage of him. Arthur was upset that they treated him like dirt.
When the ship stopped at Alexandria, another sailor, Donagan, took Arthur to buy some new clothes. After that, he brought the boy to a brothel where he lost his virginity. The experience horrified him but later, he was determined to visit the same place and girl again!
When Boy was published, people thought it was too obscene and vulgar. About a hundred copies of Boy were burnt up, too! Hanley and his family suffered emotionally as well.
It’s definitely an interesting story of a young, poor boy who runs away from home, hoping to find a better life. He had an ambition and that was to be a chemist but his parents would not hear a word of it. This book is unquestionably an eye-opener.