My Book World
Think about the worst things that happen to you before you turn sixteen. None of the disasters most people experience are as bad as what young Mungo faces in his squalid life in Glasgow, Scotland. And as readers, we live it with him, the mother who both loves and neglects Mungo, the bright sister who has a chance to escape the “housing estate” where they all live in a certain squalor, the bully older brother who tries to toughen up Mungo so that he can survive this life without a father. The mother, whose intentions are not entirely clear, because she is often drunk, sends young Mungo on a weekend trip with two known sex offenders, one old and one in his twenties. This is the strand of the story that perhaps grabs our attention most. In alternating chapters, author Stuart seamlessly weaves this story with Mungo’s falling in love with a neighbor boy his age. The scenes in which they engage are some of the most authentic I believe I’ve ever read concerning adolescent love. Mungo is Protestant, and his friend James is Catholic. Their differences threaten to tear them apart at several points. Mungo’s appellation is no accident. He is named after Saint Mungo, and he is often called to the front of a classroom to read aloud about the myths of Saint Mungo. His favorite myth is the one in which Saint Mungo brings a robin back to life. It is this motif that is reflected later on in young Mungo’s own story, but I’ll let readers discover it for themselves as they devour this important novel about who the weak and the strong really are.
TUES: AWW | Ted Hughes
WEDS: AWW | Herta Müller
THURS: AWW | Nicole Krauss
FRI: My Book World | Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie