The Fell, Robert Jenkins

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

This is one of those books that the blurb will give you a very good feel for the style (and there is a lot of style here) of story-telling deployed. THE FELL I can best describe as a stream of conscious coming of age novel that's light on punctuation, and big on the angst, challenge and nail-biting heightened reality of being a teenage boy.

The blurb will also give you a clear picture of the plot of the book, but not what happens after his sister's arrest - starting out for shoplifting but getting dramatically worse when she lashes out and wounds a policeman. When his family implodes, this young boy is sent to a remote, spartan boys' school normally reserved for kids classed as difficult, where discipline is harsh and confrontational.

From there the story shifts to one of survival, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see comparisons drawn with Lord of the Flies, there's something in the way these boys behave that had real echoes there, although there are also touches of humour and some softness, even redemption. There's some criminal aspects as well to many of the individual boys behaviour and stories, although this is not crime fiction as you would normally expect it.

The thing with this sort of style of narrative though is personal preference. Stream of conscious is right up some reader's alleys, and way too rocky a road for others.


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In an unspecified time and location, an unnamed boy is living what seems like an idyllic life. He idolises his father who is a lifeguard at the local faded and peeling Lido, never more so than when he saves the life of a suicidal man. The boy comes to believe that heroism is all.

Later that summer, the arrest of his sister brings the halcyon days to an abrupt end and his family is torn apart. With Lilly sent to jail, the boy is sent to a boarding house for dysfunctional youths far away from home The Fell. The boys band together against their enemies, both real and imagined, they become family.

The boy sees the world and his place in it through a unique lens. He meets ghosts, hears voices and battles his fears. What he never does, however, is question his own version of reality.

When the boy's fear and hatred of authority comes to a head, everything is thrown into disarray and his actions lead him to run from The Fell. And run, and run...


Review The Fell, Robert Jenkins
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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