The Book Boy (by Joanna Trollope)

I've mostly enjoyed Joanna Trollope's books very much, and thought I had all of them on my shelves. However I wasn't aware that she had also written some 'Quick Read' novellas; so I was pleased to spot one on a church bookstall recently.

'The Book Boy' is really very short - only 94 pages, with fairly large font. I read it in a couple of brief sittings. The main character is Alice, who is thirty-eight years old. Her husband Ed is rather controlling, and she has two teenagers: Craig and Becky, who are starting to treat her with contempt. Alice never criticises, never objects to anything they do, and just keeps cooking and cleaning, as well as working in her part-time job as a shop cleaner.

The reason Alice feels so inferior, unable to speak up for herself, is that she never learned to read. And she doesn't seem particularly motivated to do so.She has another secret, too: her family don't know that she has been saving a pound or two every week from her wages, which she keeps under a floorboard.

A bike-mad tattooed teenager befriends Craig, and Alice is warned that he spells trouble... but she thinks he's probably likeable under his outer appearance, and he manages to guess one of Alice's secrets... which is the catalyst for her deciding to take positive action.

It's a story of hope, ultimately, with fairly realistic characters and a good pace. There's not a whole lot of plot - there wouldn't be time for it - but it felt like a little insight into the kind of family that might be living anywhere in the suburbs of a town, with a friendly corner shop.

I'm not sure that I'll read it again - at least, not regularly - but it was a pleasant, encouraging novella, even if the ending was slightly abrupter than I expected. Apparently it's no longer in print, but is the kind of book that might be found in charity shops or car boot sales.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 30th May 2012

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