Coram Boy
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Coram Boy

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  633 ratings  ·  59 reviews
For use in schools and libraries only. In the mid-18th-century, an unsavory character and his simpleton son become involved in the lives of a wealthy English family when that family's eldest son is disinherited because of his love for music.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Mammoth (first published January 1st 2000)
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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...more
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  ·  review of another edition 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’...more
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...more
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
Aug 28, 2007 Dominic rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition 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
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...more
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...more
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
 Suzanne Kapelus
I read this book in school and I don't know if it was the way that my teacher read it but I hated it and dreaded every English lesson while we were studying the book. I'm not even sure if 'studying' is the right word to describe it. Even though the history of Coram children is very interesting,this story is dull, boring, not moving whatsoever and simply put annoying.
The characters are predictable as well as the story line. Most of the time keeping the reader guessing is a good thing in a book,...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!
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...more
Ellen Tristram
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
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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...!

Hannah Harvey
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.

This is a historical YA novel, carefully crafted and well written. It would make a great 'class reader' as there is so much to investigate and discuss. So much so in fact, that it seemed a little contrived. Personally, I don't enjoy gothic novels, although this would probably make it even more appealing to a younger reader.
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.
It took a while for me to get into. but I actually enjoyed it. I don't think it would appeal to any teens though. It's about two boys: one heir to a grand estate but who is illegitimate and the other the son of a slave who is 'saved' to serve in a grand house. It is all about their lives and that of their fathers.
Coram Boy is a text I will be teaching next year, so I read the book for the econd time, this time aloud to Kevin. The pace is slower than I would like, with an excessive amount of description for tweens; but there will be many interesting themes to discuss, and there are several heart-warming moments.
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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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