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Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: Brewster

Author: Mark Slouka

Release date: UK paperback 6th March 2014
Genre: Contemporary / Coming-of-age story / Bildungsroman
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Portobello Books


Brewster is a raw coming-of-age story. Set in the late 1960s in the USA, it’s a story of growing up in a small town. It’s about boys becoming men, it’s about finding your identity and it’s about the pain we live through. This is a hard review to write because this book is so good. It moved me. It kind of haunts me. It has a power all of its own.

Jon is the protagonist and he tells the story. I guess he’s looking back and recounting this time in his life. A time when his life felt anything but liberated. It’s a story of a friendship between two boys both with family troubles. Ray sees a quality in Jon which he recognises and though they never talk about it, they become friends. They walk the streets in winter. They sit by the lake in summer. Jon is recruited to join the track team. He runs. It lets him conquer pain. It gives him a purpose. Ray sits in the bleachers and watches. But periodically Ray disappears for days at a time. He comes back bruised with stories of illicit boxing matches and girls he fought tough guys over. And Jon expects nothing less of Ray. He’s the hard man. He’s dangerous and everyone at school knows it.

Jon tells the story retrospectively jumping around sometimes as he remembers different moments of those few years. I guess it doesn’t sound like much happens here. But it does as much as it can in a small town and in a country which is at war with Vietnam and it the midst of the summer of love.

I happen to read a review of Brewster in the Sunday Times Culture magazine and it stood out. I love coming-of-age stories and this one sounded right up me street. I wrote the name of the author and the title down. Then maybe two weeks later, I popped into the public library to collect something I’d reserved and I spotted it on the way out. It seemed serendipitous. I must have been meant to read this book.

It’s the sort of book you could read more than once. I need to get my own copy now because I know I’ll want to read it in years to come. It’s brutally emotive. There’s no doubt about it, this book will be a modern classic. Brewster is an outstanding piece of literature and above all, a moving story of the pain of growing up. Read it.

Source: Borrowed from the public library

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