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Showing posts from September, 2010

Advanced, Forthright, Signifficant

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Reviewing Molesworth is a dangerous game. As Philip Hensher points out in his introduction to the Penguin edition, it's all too tempting to try to imitate Molesworth's unique narrative voice. And you only have to glance over at some of the Amazon reviews to see how unwise this is chiz. But the failed attempts highlight what an achievement that voice is: 400 pages of note-perfect schoolboy ramblings that will leave you wondering whether Willans and Searle really made it all up or whether they just pinched an unwitting pupil's exercise books.

Molesworth (which I have borrowed from the lending library of Mrs Tomsk) is a collection of four books set in a 1950's prep school called St Custard's ("built by a madman in 1836"). Nigel Molesworth is the self-proclaimed "goriller of 3b", and an acute observer of school life. Naturally he spends much of his time decrying the oppressive teachers (particularly the headmaster Grimes and Sigismund the mad maths …