Summer holidays are a perfect opportunity to re-read old favourites and I picked this one off my self this week; almost impossibly, I found that I enjoyed the book even more than the first time I had read it.
This is the outstanding debut novel by one of my favourite authors, Frank Cottrell Boyce. The plot revolves around the Cunningham brothers, Anthony who is in Year 6 and Damian, who is in Year 5 and is told through the voice of Damian although he constantly refers to the way his older brother would have framed the story. On one level the story is about the brothers’ attempts to deal with a bag of stolen bank notes that they have found in the fields near their new house – which has many hilarious consequences. However, there is another layer to the story which is about a family coming to terms with the death of their mother, and the different ways that the two boys deal with this is beautifully portrayed.
Anthony, who considers himself to be a wheeler-dealer, is very blatant about using the fact that that their mum has died to “get stuff” whereas Damian is obsessed with the lives of saints and constantly refers to the patron saint of whatever situation he finds himself in. You soon realise that he is hoping that one of the saints has spoken to his mum. Frank Cottrell Boyce manages to write about this situation with an amazing blend of humour and sympathy so that you can completely understand each boy’s perspective.
After they find the bag of money Anthony just wants to spend it on consumer goods and in contrast Damian wants to “do good” with the cash. One of my favourite parts of the book is when Damian shoves seven thousand pounds through the letterbox of the Mormon neighbours because he thinks they will give the money to the poor. He is subsequently shocked when he sees the long list of electronic goods that they buy with the money and realises that he has misunderstood them.
I don’t want to give away too much more of the plot, but this is an extremely enjoyable story which I would encourage you to read (along with all the other books Frank Cottrell Boyce has written); he surely has the patron saint of writers on his side! 5 out of 5 stars.