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by Mick Jackson

Evacuated from World War II London to a remote Devonshire village, Bobby tries to fit in with the community's many eccentric "stay behind" citizens, including the mysteriously enigmatic Bee King and a group of bullies who torture him and accuse him of being a spy. 30,000 first printing.
Download Five Boys: A Novel epub
ISBN: 006001394X
ISBN13: 978-0060013943
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: Mick Jackson
Language: English
Publisher: William Morrow; First edition (June 1, 2002)
Pages: 288 pages
ePUB size: 1328 kb
FB2 size: 1490 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 697
Other Formats: rtf mbr lrf doc

A disappointingly trudging novel of England in the days of the blitz. The story of one small boy, Bobby, who is evacuated from war-torn London to a small Devonshire village and how he adapts and fits in with a gang of five boys whose fathers have all gone off to the war. Small effectively written portraits of the old woman who takes Bobby in, an old man who builds ships in bottles, and the boys themselves. Unfortunately, the story moves so slowly, without much happening, that I just lost interest. Gave up after reading more than a hundred pages. There are just too many other books out there waiting, and better ones. Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but you need to pick up the pace. Not recommended. (two and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
I picked up this book believing it was a novel about a young London boy sent to live in Devon to avoid getting killed in the Blitz. However, this is only the first of three separate storylines, which are direly lacking in cohesion but form a charming and poignant ensemble. The first part of the book follows Bobby, who is yanked from his London family with little warning, stuck on a train with no explanation, and winds up in a small town in the care of an unprepared spinster. What follows is a kind of warm fish out of water tale as the city boy struggles to adjust to country life. Central to this is becoming friends with the villages "five boys", a rowdy pack of boys his age who spur each other to various mischief and tomfoolery.
The second part of the book kind of wanders away from Bobby's tale and broadens out into little stories about some of the adult villagers and one of the five boys. A catalyst for this is the arrival of the large American Army preparing for D-Day. This means the forced relocation of those living in a large area right next to the village, which is an interesting and unknown story in its own right. But basically, the wacky antics of the kids gives way to the wacky antics of the adults. These include stories about an undercover operation to recover a pig from American territory, the effects of a dance to which the GIs are invited, and a detailed episode of how a ratatcher exterminates a field full of rats after the GIs are gone.
In the final third of the book, Bobby has returned to London and the five boys are enthralled by a different newcomer, a mysterious man who keeps bees and is impervious to village prying. The beekeeper completely captivates the boys and his enigmatic nature keeps one guessing as to what's really going on. Despite hints here and there, the ending comes as a bit of a shock, and can be read as emblematic of the end of innocence in England.
It's a good book, charming and well written, with plenty of evocative descriptions and smells, and good stories. However, one wonders why it's constructed (and marketed) as a novel, when it's really a series of linked short stories. Without a central figure, mood, or theme, the book doesn't quite hold together in the way one expects a novel to. That aside, it's quite enjoyable, and makes a good companion to Michael Frayn's novel Spies, which is about two London boys during the war.
Rose Of Winds
At the start of Mike Jackson's bitter-sweet novel, "Five Boys", we follow schoolboy, Bobby, as he is sent away from his home in war-time London into the supposed safety of the depths of rural Devon. Principal amongst our (and Bobby's) new acquaintances are the Five Boys, an irrepressible group of youngsters whose wild escapades impinge upon much of the life of the village in which the young evacuee finds himself billeted. Much of the first part of the book follows Bobby's trials and ordeals in coping with being away from family and friends and amongst strangers (with even stranger ways) whilst also charting his gradual acceptance and eventual madcap initiation into the company of the Five Boys.
Then, as American GI's - in training for the forthcoming D-Day invasion of Normandy - begin flooding into the rural idyll of Devon, the book's emphasis shifts away from the outrageous activities of the boys and gradually comes to encompass the equally outrageous goings-on of the wider village community. These are presented in a series of only partially (it seems) connected vignettes, mostly hilarious although often poignant - this is war-time, after all - too.
Mick Jackson's writing style - never less than refreshingly vibrant - coupled with his eye for detail, a wicked sense of humour and an imagination that at times quite beggars belief, all serve to conjure up an entirely enthralling tale of English eccentricities. Indeed, not since A. G. Macdonell's "England, Their England" has there been such a sparkling exposition of the true nature of the unbridled English spirit, as was once so often exemplified within small, and especially rural, communities (but is now, alas, almost all but gone).
From the very outset, the reader is drawn in by the very finest of prose, swept off one's feet and carried along by the flow of events in much the same way as is young Bobby. Towards the end of the book, though, the reader begins to get an uncomfortable feeling that the flow might not be as tranquil as its surface suggests. And as the book proceeds towards its concluding pages, with the chapters becoming ever shorter, one can feel a distinctly ominous undertow beginning to develop, as even the very words themselves begin to cascade over each other, tumbling ever more rapidly and inexorably towards an increasingly threatening ending.
While the book is not without its faults - some aspects of the latter parts of the tale feel just a tad out of kilter with its time-setting, for instance - these are more than compensated for by its entirely loveable quirkiness. I suspect it will only be a matter of time before this story is made into a movie - properly handled it would make a very good one - but please don't wait for that to happen before reaping its many rewards firsthand. This has to be one of the best literary offerings of the year. Read it and weep - mostly with laughter!