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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Boy on the Edge
by Fridrik Erlings
Age Range: 14+
Henry is angry and disturbed; he is relentlessly bullied at school because of his club foot, stammer and difficultly in communicating. After a violent outburst towards his mother he is sent to The Lesser Brethren, a home for troubled boys located on a remote farm in the middle of nowhere amidst a vast lava field on the Icelandic coast. Run by the strict and over-zealous evangelical Reverend Oswald and his caring wife Emily, it is a desolate place.
Life is hard for Henry and he struggles with loss and loneliness; he has already learnt from his mother that crying doesn’t change anything so he bottles things up inside. Henry longs for friendship but is still seen as an outsider by the other boys until he meets Ollie – a young boy who comes to live there after losing both his parents. Ollie has his own special way of coping with life; everything is measured in poems and rhymes and everywhere he goes he recites the number of words to fit the distance. Henry slowly begins to realise, after initially finding Ollie annoying with his poems and reading of books, that it has awakened in him a desire to belong.
Here, in this most unlikely of places, Henry discovers kindness, some contentment in his work looking after the cows and sheep, hope and the most important thing of all: friendship.
Fridrik Erlings, award-winning Icelandic author of Fish in the Sky, offers a sometimes stark novel about a boy on the edge which is both cruel and tender in equal measure, exploring desperation as well as kindness and remorse.