Hank's Reviews > The Fire-Eaters

The Fire-Eaters by David Almond
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's review
Apr 20, 2008

really liked it

I looked at this book for a damn long time on the shelf before I read it. I think the reason is because I thought Fire Eating was going to be a cheesy analogy for, I don't know, taking shit from people. But it wasn't; the analogy was both deeper and more subtle. There were some very grown up characters and circumstances that were scary which made the book scary. It's set in a coastal coal town in northern England, an out of the way place for sure. This means that the characters all know each other intimately, except for the egg head activist family moves in to photograph the town's way of life. This would be an ignorable intrusion if the people who live there weren't nice to begin with, and they are and perhaps made more so because the whole world is filled with uncertainty during the few days of the Cuban missle crisis, which is when the novel takes place. This is a fearful setting for the younger character, and a grim one for the old folks as well as they are old enough to remember the horrific jungle nights when they served in the Boer war. It's scary for everyone except old McNutly, who performs gruesome acts of self inflicted pain like poking himself with skewers, and eating fire. Can you guess why he went crazy? War isn't very friendly to anyone, and it broke McNulty when he served in Burma with the main character's father.

I guess this review is rather grim, but that's just the overtone of the book. The actual narrative is told from a younger, much more innocent point of view. You should read this book.

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