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Coram Boy

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  1,202 Ratings  ·  80 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.

The author has researched

Paperback, 373 pages
Published 2000 by Egmont
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Aug 28, 2007 Dominic rated it liked it
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.
Oct 31, 2007 Kayli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 07, 2008 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
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.
Apr 26, 2009 Graham rated it it was amazing
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’
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
May 20, 2009 Cathy rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens, 2009-read
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
Apr 09, 2010 Janet rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2011 Ari rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Aug 17, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-books
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
Sarah Hammerton
Sep 28, 2011 Sarah Hammerton rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 Josephine rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
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
Dec 14, 2011 Courtney rated it really liked it
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
Mar 28, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
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
Amanda Carr
Jan 23, 2015 Amanda Carr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, teen
Coram Boy is the book that got me reading. It caught my eye 10 years ago when I was in my highschool library and after reading it I just had to go out and buy it. I have even read it so much that the pages have turned yellow. It is a rather dark, emotional book set in 18th century England. The books about family love and friendship. Not a book for younger children as it does contain quite a bit of violence, especially violence towards children and babies. The book is so well written and draws yo ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Vicky rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
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.
Hannah Harvey
Apr 25, 2012 Hannah Harvey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a deep and insightful one. I found myself getting lost in the pages, because the story was so compelling.
Strictly speaking this is a children's/young adult book (which I had to read for Uni), but I found that it was very engaging and I think adult readers will enjoy it just as much as younger readers.

I enjoyed it a lot.
Jul 12, 2012 Montserrat rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
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
Claire Russell
Aug 20, 2012 Claire Russell rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 18, 2016 E rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread, reviewed
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
Anthony Burt
Mar 01, 2013 Anthony Burt rated it did not like it
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...!

Oct 31, 2014 Mars rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2013 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 29, 2014 Elen rated it liked it
Den är välskriven och jag gillar hur Gavin målar upp England och London, men första halvan känns som en upptakt och ger oss de svar som karaktärerna sedan spenderar andra halvan åt att lista ut. Det funkar inte på mig och brydde mig dessutom inte om ungarna, särskilt inte överklasskidsen. Inte dåligt men inte min typ av bok.
Mar 06, 2014 Mirte rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Dec 14, 2014 Cait rated it liked it
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
Jan 08, 2016 Esther rated it really liked it
I studied this in English in secondary school, and found it quite intense at the time, but I learnt a lot from it. It presents an interesting perspective of England in the 1750s, by linking the lives of two boys; one an African boy saved from a ship, and the other an illegitimate heir. They are linked by the Coram Man who collects abandoned children, allegedly to give them safety at the Coram Hospital, however this is not necessarily the case... I can still say I enjoyed it despite analyzing it ...more
Apr 08, 2016 Yami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it is always fun to read a standing alone book, without worrying about the release of the next one, and this one was one of them, the Victorian era with its dirty secrets are always intriguing , and the Coram boy was one of those, if I am to sum it up will tell you to think of Oliver Twist the musical movie version, cos it met to many similarities with it, a lost child , who became an orphan and fate returning him back home and lots of singing in-between .

but there was one thing that made me ups
Aug 01, 2016 Mandy rated it really liked it
Some parts of this story were predictable, and soppy, but others were new, and raw, and gut churning. I don't quite know how I feel about the book. There is the touch of a fairy story in it, and a great character in Mish, who in his innocence and pain causes pain. But there is so much suffering. I think I need a light read now, something magical.
Sep 09, 2016 Juliet rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I did enjoy it but it takes quite a while to get into
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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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