'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 12 October 2020

Review: Of Boys and Boats

Meticulously crafted, Ian Trevaskis draws on his childhood experiences, plus the history of the post war years – in particular the Olympic Games which took place in Melbourne, 1956. 

Of Boys and Boats is presented in vivid scenes from multiple points of view, by the unique characters that star in the sub-stories which make up the novel.

Jack’s father is in hospital being treated for Tuberculosis which heavy drinking and smoking has caused. Mad Mick, a neighbour, has been a recluse for years due to his facial disfigurement by a land mine during the Great War.

Jack’s mates are Percy, who wears callipers due to Polio, and Heinrich, a German Jew migrant. On the sideline is Anna, Jack’s secret crush. There is also Skip, Jack’s dog.

Then there is the boat; Mick’s boat, standing incomplete in his shed, reflecting the interruption to Mick’s life, due to the war.

In the spirit of the Olympic Games, the boys have their own Olympic Torch Relay to coincide with the actual one taking place. It is on one of Jack’s runs that Bruiser, a brutal bully, and his lapdogs Stinky McGee and Ferret, attack Heinrich and continue to terrorise him along with his friends, due to his nationality. These violent attacks continue throughout the story at the most unexpected times and for no reason, until the boys take a stand against their tormentors.

Mick saves Skip after he gets hit by a car. But boys will be boys. They go to steal Mick’s strawberries and find him in the shed dancing with an invisible partner. From that moment on, the boat becomes an obsessive goal.

They must finish building the boat.

The boat is the pivotal object in the story. As the building progresses, Jack’s relationship with Mick expands and strengthens.

Mick agrees to allow them to work on the boat in exchange for Jack reading him a chapter every night of Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World. The boys’ lives change. Mick’s war experiences are revealed, so is his love for Edith, a nurse who died from the Spanish Flu.

Of Boys and Boats is fast-paced and engages the reader from beginning to end. The chapters and characters are strung together like fairy lights, all taking part in the line of stories that light up this wonderful novel. I loved it!

Title: Of Boys and Boats
Author: Ian Trevaskis
Publisher: FORD ST, $16.99
Publication Date: 1 September 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925804515
For ages: 10+
Type: Historical Fiction