Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

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Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Funny, naughty, rude and beautifully observed, Holden Caulfield meets Adrian Mole in Swansea for a wonderful debut novel. It's missing the most satisfying of climaxes (no pun intended), but that's all. You can also read an interview with Joe Dunthorne.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 0141032758

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Oliver Tate is fifteen. He's determined to lose his virginity before his next birthday. He's unhealthily obsessed about his parents' sex life. He's convinced that his mother is having an affair and his father is depressed, borderline suicidal even. There are many new and interesting words he hasn't yet learned but he has a trusty dictionary and he uses some of the entries in a pamphlet he's writing for fat Zoe at school, to assuage his guilt for sharing in bullying her.

Oliver gets a girlfriend - the pyromaniac and eczema-challenged Jordana. He sets off on a quest to save his parents' marriage, and he considers the best way to poison a dog...

... given the circumstances, what else could he do?

Submarine scores seventeen on the Murphy Dog Ear Funny Things To Quote In The Review scale. That's a very high rating - I average three or four. Clearly I can't repeat seventeen of Joe Dunthorne's one-liners - gag stealing is a rotten crime, and I'd ruin all the best moments - but this should tell you that Submarine is laugh-out-loud funny. Oliver is funny. He's that mix of hubris, ignorance and spectacular talent for cock-up that makes adolescents such fertile ground for comedy. Sometimes he's play-acting in a self-conscious Catcher In The Rye parody and sometimes he's genuinely vulnerable. Sometimes he combines the two. When he's finally getting down and dirty with the luscious, if enigmatic, Jordana, his inner monologue is just hilarious...

My own pubic hair, sparse and dry, looks like a beard.

She smiles as if to say wow.

... ha. Haha. Oh, dear. Right there is the egocentrism of youth - particularly youth-with-penis.

Humorous books featuring teenage boys press all my buttons. I like to pretend that I am a woman of taste, but really I am a woman with an unreconstructed and very coarse sense of humour. If a book has ludicrous sex, bottoms, farts and banana skins, I'm going to laugh. If it has clever wordplay, I'm going to laugh again. If it also has a comedy of manners set of misunderstandings, I'm going to laugh until I cry. Submarine absolutely and utterly ticks all my boxes. It's true that the final section of the book lacks drive - in fact, the entire narrative lacks progression once the marriage crisis is wrapped up - but plot resolution isn't the end of the world when you're being offered so many side-splitting moments.

Great writing, lexical navel-gazing and a cornucopia of sniggers. If that sounds like a good recipe to you, then you will love Submarine.

My thanks to the nice people at Penguin for sending the book.

Those who find the teenage boy's mindset perennially funny should head to the teen shelves and look out Henry Tumour by Anthony McGowan and My Side of the Story by Will Davis. Richard Milward's Apples isn't quite so funny, but it also finds poetry in the lives of adolescents. You might also enjoy Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne.

Bookinterviews.jpg Joe Dunthorne was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Booklists.jpg Submarine by Joe Dunthorne is in the Top Ten Adult Books That Teens Should Read.

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Buy Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Submarine by Joe Dunthorne at


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