I, Nigel Dorking by Mary-Anne Fahey
|I, Nigel Dorking by Mary-Anne Fahey|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A young teenage boy finds himself needing all his chivalric approach to life in trying to patch up his parents' relationships in this quirky, thoroughly readable and great fun read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: March 2008|
|Publisher: Puffin Books|
With the help of his father's inspiration, and 41 elements to the modern Knight's Code (and the fact that all the streets and features of his local estate have knightly connotations), Nigel Dorking has grown up a fanatical modern knight. In home-made costume, with a head full of medieval and plumbing trivia, there is nothing he cannot do – he can alienate every child at school, he can be a clear embarrassment, he can get high scores on a school test… But can he turn his chivalry to the broken marriage his parents have suffered, and reunite his father with his mother?
Well, clearly, things might not need to be patched up. Far be it for Nigel to realise, however, convinced as he is that his mentally disabled younger brother was an upset for his father, thus allowing him to be stolen by a modern Morgan le Fey with her black magic and sausage dog. He is also quite sure that his mother will soon see the light over her new, Scottish, red-headed, boyfriend, who is surely breaking into the household in all the wrong ways. Beyond that, Nigel, as so many teenage boys are, is seeing a future for him and his creative writing teacher. Is there any hope?
That creative writing teacher however must be thanked for inspiring this brilliant autobiography. Told mostly in the third person, as Nigel didn't want to brag too much, the book is only aided by the different typographies, styles and approaches, as addenda from the proof-reader, introductions and so on are included. Within the pages of the book there is delight upon delight – the ultra-naïve hero is never ridiculed, although there are darker tones, and sections where we might lose his sympathy a little; the story flows on perfectly; and the humour is top notch (the timing in the first line regarding the side gate would have defeated me alone).
Everything in Nigel's life comes through so well in this story – his angst about his parents resulting in medical embarrassment, his dubious relationship with his brother (force-feeding him the Encyclopaedia Britannica contents to trigger the end to the 'ruse' of his disability), and the whole thought processes as he encounters someone even more wearisome than he is at school. It really is a treasure that the young Dorking esquire was able to write such a fresh, distinctive book at such a tender age.
There are clear parallels between this and Mark Haddon's Curious Incident… with a boy unable to get the whole picture and just leave matters regarding his parents alone. But this book is definitely distinctive enough, and a fully rounded separate entity, to actually bear any comparisons very well. I am sure the target audience – say, the 11 and over – would clearly get the irony of the narration, which again is done in such a winsome way there are never any cheap gags against our befuddled hero.
The nearest thing to a fault is the rapidity with which loose strands are tied together at the end, but throughout the reader is never guaranteed any particular kind of ending – happy or otherwise. I would also have liked the father and son camp bonding sessions to be a little more recognisable to the British audience, and for the fact he is in the 6th grade pinned down to a specified age, but that doesn't get in the way of the book at all. The plot is maintained brilliantly, all characters are very well drawn – even through Nigel's biased considerations – and the water facts only go to make the book even better value.
With the 13+ audience well treated by Nick Earls, and this find from down under, it seems the Antipodes are becoming a hotbed of children's literature. Full marks to Puffin for bringing this to our shores, and many thanks for sending a copy to the Bookbag to review. The book can only get five stars, for being such a brilliant mix of individual style and rollicking drama, in considered and nuanced telling. It is very highly recommended.
You can read more book reviews or buy I, Nigel Dorking by Mary-Anne Fahey at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy I, Nigel Dorking by Mary-Anne Fahey at Amazon.com.
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