How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney [9/10]

Novels about “different” children and teenagers are, in my experience, a hit or miss read. Some well-regarded works leave me cold, but How to Build a Boat, by Irish novelist Elaine Feeney (whom I’ve never read but will now catch up with), seized me with a clear, cold grip from the outset. Uncompromising in style and approach, the novel revolves around Jamie, a thirteen-year-old boy with an intellect and imagination as wide as the universe, a boy destined to be teased at school. Into his life are thrust two teachers, Tess and Tadhg, both compassionate but life-muddled, and a boat, a currach, in the making. The author is a renowned poet and her predilection for free-flowing verse crops up irregularly and beautifully. The novel shines in those scenes told from Jamie’s disjunctive, lurching viewpoint; I shed a tear often. The novel’s themes of imagination’s heft, the power of love, and how community arises, come to life through the characters, and the author eschews tidiness in plotting. Some may find How to Build a Boat puzzling. I revelled in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *