The Clamour King by David Muirhead

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The Clamour King by David Muirhead

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Tense and addictive book set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a public school. Deceptively easy to read, it talks about the nature of beauty, love and power in a homoerotically charged updating of Tom Brown's Schooldays.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2008
Publisher: Snowbooks
ISBN: 1905005741

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Peter arrives at a grammar school as a new boarder after a scandal at his old school. One of his teachers had kissed him in the middle of a lesson and his parents had thought a fresh start was for the best. Looking at Peter, you can see immediately what caused a master to lose his head. Peter is as beautiful as it's possible for a young boy to be, and his beauty has an ethereal purity that takes your breath away.

And so, predictably, Peter causes waves at his new school too. Befriended by teachers and older boys, but curiously, by the school bully too, it seems as if Peter is addictive. The boy himself, though, is refreshingly normal. If anything, he errs too much on the daredevil side. If a cigarette is going, he'll smoke it. If alcohol becomes available, he'll drink it. But despite this, he seems innocent, betraying only occasionally his understanding of his attractiveness and his confusion about sexuality.

Of course, in the hothouse environment of a public school, not all the attention Peter receives is benign...

I enjoyed The Clamour King immensely. It's claustrophobic and tense and it portrays the intensity of adolescent life very well. As it examines the famously closed society of an English public school, it also turns the spotlight on any tightknit group. It's not just a modernising of Tom Brown's Schooldays, but it does mirror many of its themes - growing up, bullying, friendship, future.

The writing is smooth and elegant and holds enough ambiguity and mystery to reflect its themes, but also to keep the reader guessing. Is Peter entirely innocent? Does the bully bully for a reason? Is the teacher a predator, or committed to pastoral care? What is beauty? What is love? There's a lot to think about here.

Recommended, particularly for a holiday read, when you've time to really absorb yourself in a book's atmosphere.

My thanks to the author for sending the book.

You might also think of Meg Rosoff's young adult novel about identity, What I Was which is also set in the suffocating environment of a public school.

Buy The Clamour King by David Muirhead at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Clamour King by David Muirhead at

Buy The Clamour King by David Muirhead at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Clamour King by David Muirhead at


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