9780393050523 / 0393050521

The Anatomy School


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

With The Anatomy School, his first novel since 1997's Grace Notes, Bernard MacLaverty returns to the dual concerns that animated that Booker-nominated success, and his earlier novels Lamb and Cal--the troubled politics of late 20th-century Ireland, and the familiar comedy of working-class Irish life.

We meet innocent Belfast Catholic teenager Michael Brennan as he enters a three-day retreat at Ardglass on the eve of his final year at school, resitting his A levels, to the increasing despair of his mother; by the end of the novel, at the end of the 1960s, Michael's innocence is somewhat tarnished, both by his own sexual awakening with an Australian girl in the local university's anatomy department, and by the sectarian bombs providing an inappropriate soundtrack outside. The bulk of the novel is given over to the schoolboy adventures of Brennan with his two friends, the popular sportsman Kavanagh and the sexually and politically mysterious new boy Blaise Foley. Seeking to spice up their workaday world of mocking their schoolmasters and sniggering about masturbation and pornography, together they embark on a torturously complex plot to hijack the year's A level papers--in Foley's eyes a blow against British imperialism but also a self-serving prank that leaves the ethically serious Michael in no small torment.

MacLaverty is at his best in the humorous moments, spinning out tense situations with the wandering skill of a stand-up comic and breathing new life into the compulsory old-folks' tea-party, the "dotery coterie" of Michael's fastidious mother, Nurse Gilliland, Father Farquharson and Mary Lawless. But undercutting the easy whimsy is a harsher tale of the inevitable death of innocence in a world of religion, politics and deception.--Alan Stewart

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