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Coram Boy

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  958 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Eighteenth-century England is the setting for Jamila Gavin's sweeping saga of growing-up, struggle, tradition and corruption. From an acorn of an idea about a real-life good Samaritan of yesteryear, the author has crafted a satisfying, if occasionally painful, novel that spans the lives of several fortunate and unfortunate young people of the day.

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Paperback, 373 pages
Published 2000 by Egmont
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Community Reviews

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This story is a set book that I read in advance (2009) for my planned children's literature course with the Open University (EA300).

I found Coram Boy to be an intense, highly emotional read and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. If I hadn’t been reading it as a set book to my OU EA300* course I would never have realised it was a YA book.

I was amazed to realise how dark this genre could be. Jamila Gavin didn’t hold anything back and the reader was plummeted into the cruel depths of the 18th Cent
I thought the plot of this book was fascinating. But I'm glad it was written for YA rather than adult, or it could have been much too graphic and given me nightmares.
It's about a guy who goes around collecting unwanted babies under the pretext that he's taking them to a hospital, but he doesn't. All the characters' stories interweave and it's very cool how it all works out.
Really interesting. I definitely recommend it.
Apr 26, 2009 Graham rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody who enjoys young adult novels
An excellent young adult novel, set in the 18th century, in which a complex storyline delivers everything you could expect from a novel, whether it’s written for kids or adults. And what originality!

There’s romance here and love, as well as thrilling action; there are scenes of realistic horror that disturbed even this reader; there’s pathos and chaos, plenty of moral messages (although the story is never preachy) and, most of all, the positive and touching value of true friendship.

Gavin hasn’
Coram Boy is a historical novel set in the mid-eighteenth century, and its title comes from Captain Thomas Coram, who founded the Coram Hospital to foster orphans. We are introduced to the 'Coram Man', Otis, who travels around the countryside persuading women with unwanted babies to give them to him for a price. Of course, these babies never make it to the Coram Hospital. Otis is evil and cruel, and forces his simpleton son Meshak to collude in his crimes. At the same time, we meet Alexander Ash ...more
Sarah Hammerton
Coram Boy is a dramatic and moving novel set in eighteenth-century England. Set in two parts, it begins with Alexander Ashbrook, heir to the Ashbrook estate, who would rather follow his heart and fulfill his potential in music then follow in his father's footsteps. When he runs away to do this, he leaves his true love, Melissa, who discovers she is pregnant.

Ten years on, we meet Toby, the son of an African slave, and Aaron, an illegitimate child, best friends who have been brought up at the Cora
Claire Russell
Coram Boy is a fantastic read! It details the lives of the Coram children who were looked after in the Coram Fields orphanage, focusing on two boys in particular: Aaron and Toby. The book paints a realistic picture of life in the eighteenth century and is full of sinister characters and unusual happenings. The second set of main characters in the book are Alexander Ashbrook and his family. Alexander’s life is not easy, he is a talented musician but his father expects him to fulfil his role as he ...more
I really enjoyed reading this book for the second time. I first read this when I was 13 years old. This book is suitable for children from about 12 years old, although I would read this with a Year Six class as part of guided reading or story time. I probably would not recommend this to a Year Six, to go and read alone, as some of the themes are more appropriate for teenagers. The story revolves around the Ashbrook family and a close friend Thomas. The villains are Otis Gardiner and his simple s ...more
This book starts off pretty gruesome. How easily people killed or left babies and small children at that time is astonishing. This book starts by telling some of the story of Meshak and his father. They were intended to be selling pots and pans but their real business was getting rid of unwanted children. Now I'm the kind of person that gets into books a lot and at this point my emotions were really effected when they described the burying of live babies. Then the book goes to Alexander and his ...more
I was disappointed by Coram Boy; my last encounter with it had been when it was on at The National Theatre, which was absolutely amazing and maybe I had forgotten that the novel actually isn't as good as its stage adaptation. I don't think that Jamila Gavin is a particularly spectacular writer, although her stories are good. But, rereading this, even the story seemed lacking: there were too many coincidences, even for a children's book and I ended up feeling pretty irritated. I wish I hadn't rer ...more
Aug 28, 2007 Dominic rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents to read to their kids
The author of this book lived in the same house as me while I was in London and this was my 24th birthday present. She is a lovely lady and deserves all the success that has come as a result of this book. It was made into a hugely successful West End play with another season in the making.

It is a great children's book that adults can enjoy also.
Had to read it for my children's lit class. Dark and gritty, and my favourite bits were when it started getting fairytale-esque. Probably not something I would have seeked out on my own, but definitely a fast and enjoyable read -- I ploughed through it in two days. Iiiiii probably won't revisit it at any point ever, though.
Coram Boy has a strange structure. It is a fairly slow narrative, with sudden bursts of exciting events interspersing it. It's a tragic tale of family and especially the start deals with almost unspeakable horrors that made me wonder how exactly this would be an acceptable read for children. There is a variety of characters, initially portrayed black-and-white, but fortunately allowing for shades of grey later on. It feels scattered at times, but all is neatly tied up in the end, which is satisf ...more
Sort of enjoyed this one but it was very different to what I was expecting; I thought it was going to be set in some exotic place because of the cover.

Didn't like all of the different characters' points of view, felt like some were unnecessary, like the Prologue.

Felt like the author took a few liberties with the time period and social attitudes, such as Alexander and Melissa with Aaron.

Interested in learning more about the Coram House, how it worked and what happened to it.

Liked the way the book
Coram Boy is a book that expresses the beauty of a magical innate power that every single child, past - present - future, are born with and will continue to have in the forever lasting grains of sands, mists of time, that slowly pour out, linger for long moments infinitely. This is a gift that we are offered, an ability that resembles hope. Children see beyond reality perhaps due to the unfamiliarity of it or too much forcible wander of independence, loneliness; maturity because of survival. Non ...more
Richie Partington
29 June 2001 CORAM BOY by Jamila Gavin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2001

"It was a hurried affair in all that wind and rain and darkness and the swinging light from the storm lantern, which Otis hung on a branch directly over the ditch. Otis plunged in his spade. Nothing too deep or careful. There was a lot of water. Just dig a hole deep enough to submerge the bundles. Foxes would do the rest..."

While reading CORAM BOY I damned near had to remember to keep breathing. Those bundles being bu
The story begins with Meshak and his father Otis Gardiner travelling through the 18th century English countryside. We immediately learn that Meshak is a 'simpleton' and is harshly controlled by is father. They wander with their mule cart between London and Gloucester selling pots and pans. However it soon becomes apparent that Otis has another lucrative business; collecting abandoned children, ostensibly to deliver them to the newly founded Coram Hospital. Pitiful women hand over their illegitim ...more
The summary was too vague for my taste. But that's not really all that important, something that did really bother me about the book was how slow the plot dragged and how simplistic the plot was. It does not end 100% happily which was realistic but most characters were seen clearly in black or white. The few who had some 'gray' areas remained an unsatisfactory mystery, the reason as to why characters acted the way they did sometimes out of the blue, was never explained through dialogue or observ ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What distinguishes (good) writing for children from (good) writing for adults? Big question.

But I have no problem with the subject of trading in children, even child murder, as material for a children's book. Children suffer. One of my strongest childhood memories is of reading a book about a Chinese girl sold by her father into slavery - wow that opened my own cherished-daughter eyes!

This book also includes storylines involving a 'simpleton', slavery, the crudest racism, dire poverty. On the
An interesting work of historical fiction about a bit of English history I didn't know about: Thomas Coram's orphanage for foundlings, set up to prevent the sort of despairing misery that lasted even into Dicken's era. It combines music, class divisions, how blacks were perceived in the time and more reasonably smoothly. That said, I'd guess that Gavin was writing primarily for an audience in the U.K., with a strong background in history--not surprising, given that's where she's from! I wouldn't ...more
This book is a well written gothic drama which brings the 18th century alive with much tension and colour. The story is a powerful family saga with some historical detail. Be prepared for a sad ending!
Kristen Fort
Very rarely does a book toy with my emotions from its very beginning. Coram Boy did that. I felt for the characters, and most of all, I felt for the child victims that had no names, no other part in the story except for their moments on the page.
A really fantastic read! This is an interesting book based in eighteenth century England where many lives are entwined in a rich and rewarding plot. This drama is almost gothic at times examining both the best and worst in human relationships as well as Britain’s past. It is based upon the Coram Foundation which is still running today, looking after children.

This story is at times dark although good does triumph in the end. It was the Winner of the Whitbread Children’s Award which it clearly de
Maryam Nelson
It deserves more than three stars , It's filled with different types of characters and a dark storyline .
Rachel Taylor
Compelling but disturbing. A reminder of how far most of humanity has come.
this was a really good book and really gripping

read the book
Set in 18th Century England, Coram Boy exposes the dark side of Georgian moral values: the often brutal treatment of children. The Coram Hospital was a real institution, set up as a humane alternative to harsh parish orphanages. Author Jamila Gavin weaves fact and fantasy to create a vivid, heart-rending drama. Read my full review here.
Faith Justice
My daughter bought this one after we saw the play for my birthday celebration. The play follows the first part of the book very closely, but twists the ending a bit. No spoilers here. I enjoyed the book. The plot, characters and setting are Dickensian, but Gavin's writing is plain and straightforward. I think she intended this as YA novel, but it works for adults as well.
Anthony Burt
On the surface this seemed like a great book - a growing-up tale based in 18th Century England with war as its backdrop. But, alas, the language was so jumbled I felt the story was quite inaccessible so I gave up after 60 pages. Sorry Jamila, you've got published and that is a truly fantastic achievement but I couldnt enjoy your story. All the best...!

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Jamila Gavin was born in Mussoorie, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to an Indian father and an English mother. Jamila has written many books with multicultural themes for children and young adults. She won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award in 2000 and was runner-up for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. Her work has been adapted for stage and television. Jamila Gavin lives in Engla ...more
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