A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey

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A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A dark and very raw rite of passage story set in the 1960s and with themes of abuse, bullying and family break up. Very classy stuff and absolutely compelling.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Orchard
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408313022

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After an acrimonious divorce, Vincent chooses to stay with his father and not his mother and sister. As his father works away much of the time, they go to live with Vincent's grandparents, who run an undertaking business. Vincent, a reserved and sensitive child, is being bullied on his way in to his new school by Frankie Lennox from the grammar school, who goes so far as to threaten Vincent with a knife. Uncle Billy sorts this out very quickly, but Vincent's sense of relief quickly disappears when he wins a scholarship to the grammar school himself. With a father in pieces over the divorce, the looming shadow of a bully, and the malign influence of Graeme, an employee of his grandfather's, Vincent is embarking on the most dangerous, but most formative, year of his life...

You guys should know that Vincent Caldey is pseudonym for Chris d'Lacey, who wrote The Last Dragon Chronicles and the Carnegie-nominated Fly, Cherokee, Fly. This, as I'm sure you can already tell, is a very different book and I can see why the author wanted to maintain a distinction. A Good Clean Edge is dark and tense, full of raw and painful emotions and it depicts abuse both physical and emotional, violence, bullying, swearing and sex. Not really suitable stuff for eight-year-old fans of magic and dragons.

But for teens and young adults, this is an absolutely marvellous book. It's utterly compelling, told in a dual narrative, with one thread in flashback, tracing the breakup of Vincent's parents marriage, and the other following the boy through his new life living with his grandparents in the wake of two critical events - the divorce and the bullying by Frankie Lennox.

The writing is beautiful - sparse and haunting, pared right down. In a Q&A at the end of the book, Chris/Vincent says he was in part inspired by the minimalist writing of American author Raymond Carver and indeed, you can see it throughout A Good Clean Edge. To be clean and tight yet at the same time heavy and intense is quite a feat and I think young adult readers will really appreciate the stylishness of this novel just as much as they appreciate the social themes and the thriller aspect of the murder story in its latter stages.

I hope Vincent Caldey is a pseudonym Chris d'Lacey uses again and that he writes more books in this vein. Because I thought it was absolutely stunning.

My thanks to the good people at Orchard for sending the book.

We can also recommend What I Was by Meg Rosoff, also set in the 1960s and featuring life at a posh school, this pared-down novel is part picaresque, part rite of passage and part magic realism. I think Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess, a riff on Oliver Twist in an tale of institutional child abuse, might also appeal.

Buy A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Good Clean Edge by Vincent Caldey at Amazon.com.


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