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The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,194 ratings  ·  132 reviews
The cult classic novel of growing up in 1950s England from the writer of Withnail and I
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 26th 1998 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1998)
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Maurice threw another log on and a mass of brilliant sparks leapt in the air like burning confetti.

'You know what I'd like now?' he said, without taking his eyes off the fire. 'A pot of tea on top of that and a shag.'

Thomas agreed.

'Do you realize it can take up to a year of constant shagging for a girl to achieve orgasm?'

He didn't, but went along with the prognosis. After all, Maurice had had an experience in the park.

Here we examine the days and nights of young Thomas Penman as he ages from t
MJ Nicholls
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This debut (and only) novel from the actor and screenwriter begins as a scatological black comedy, the titular Thomas a tortured figure unable to stay his bowels in class and relentless in pursuit of his dying grandfather’s porn stash. As the book meanders along the tone of smirking nihilism adapts to encompass Thomas’s compassion for his grandfather and acquires a bulbously implausible first-love story of unapologetic purpleness, alongside the stuff about strapping rockets to crabs and launchin ...more
It's three months (gulp!) since I read this. I thought I'd made a lot of notes but the Word document "penman" turned out only to contain four lines of writing. It was reading Edward St. Aubyn's Never Mind that brought me back: both are mostly-autobiographical novels written in the 1990's by gifted male authors with past addictions, taking on their own abusive childhoods - bringing excellent writing to a subject usually left for lowbrow "misery memoirs".

Never Mind is somewhat the better literar
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I knew Robinson as the director of two eccentric and wonderful British comedies, "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" and "Withnail and I." So I expected this novel to be funny. But I didn't expect it to be so deep down good and so beautifully written. I found myself copying out whole lines just for their cleverness or their music. And I laughed out loud a lot, even when I was by myself.
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
What an odd book. Given it's a teenage boy's coming of age story, there's a lot of graphic writing about sex and bodily functions. Sometimes it works and ties the story together, sometimes it seems overdone and intrusive. It was an interesting novel, but not something I would read again or heartily recommend.
Trixie Fontaine
I picked this up because the sleeve described a kid obsessed with gaining access to his grandpa's porn collection; I'm fascinated by personal porn collections and what happens to them so . . . perfect, there.

I'm glad I didn't stop reading it; at first I was confused and it made me kind of uncomfortable, reminding me of a British miniseries I watched on PBS late at night once when I was a kid because it had tits and ass and now all these years later I still remember a scene with a sick old man in
Die Booth
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nobody can write like Bruce Robinson. This is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read and it actually made me cry. The characters are absolutely, sometimes horribly real and utterly captivating, some of the most well-realised I’ve ever read. The storyline takes the utterly mundane life of a 50s household and sees in it the grotesque, sublime, uplifting, heartbreaking and hilarious. On one hand, it’s about a teenage boy struggling with typical teenage problems of family trauma, his grand ...more
Annabelle Franklin
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is funny, sad, gross and highly atmospheric. Bruce Robinson's skillful and wickedly funny descriptions transport the reader into the world of a teenage boy growing up in a seaside town in the 1950s. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes dark comedy with a touch of toilet humour.
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
funny. good first effort from Robinson
Mister Chris
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most amusing, touching and disgusting books I've ever read.

Bruce Robinson's prose is effervescent and lightning-fast, complimented by an inspiring attention to detail and a dryly optimistic view of a bleak and disgusting situation.

Largely autobiographical, the book follows Bruce Thomas, an insecure, unloved fifteen year old, going through a somewhat unusual take on the classic teenage growing pains. Set in Broadstairs, Kent in 1959, the book deals with a couple of years of Th
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Most people will know Bruce Robinson from his brilliant script and direction of the film 'Withnail and I' and that is what first drew me to this book. I wasn't sure what to expect as film is so different from a novel but I needn't have worried. Robinson is a huge Dickens fan with the book set in the seaside town of Broadstairs, where Dickens wrote Bleak House, and the novel bearing many Dickensian themes, however it isn't just a homage to his favourite author. Robinson has a clear and original v ...more
James W.  Harris
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This eccentric and odd-paced book seemed a bit disjointed and confusing to me at first. I stuck with it, mostly because I am a great admirer of the author's film Withnail and I. It paid off, as I enjoyed the last 2/3 of the book much more than the first third.

I didn't particularly care for some of it, but sometimes the author would write something so incredibly true and insightful about human relations, or something so beautiful or otherwise moving, that it made the book extremely worthwhile.
Allen Houston
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've given at least five copies of this book away since I first read it a decade ago. It's darkly grim and funny but also heartbreaking. I love the interplay between Thomas and his eccentric grandfather, probably the only person who understands him. I thinks Robinson nails the awkward and ugly junior high phase. One of those I re-read on occasion, though I understand it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Weird, funny, touching, sad, moving. This book took me on a strange ride. Thomas Penman is certainly a one-of-a-kind character. He's a teenage boy dealing with a multitude of issues that would be hard for an adult to navigate. The author did a wonderful job of describing the ups, downs, truths, hardships and life of a peculiar and lovable young man.
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books. Filthy kid up to no good in dirty seaside 1960s England. Pipe bombs and pornography and boiling pots of meat and secret forts in the bushes for smoking cigarettes. And love. BR wrote Withnail and I and got an Oscar for The Killing Fields.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: personal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Davies
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply the funniest book I have ever read. From page 1 I was in stitches.
Alex Clare
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Earthy, to the point and horribly redolent of a teenager. Not a nice read but a powerful one.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cheka Firefly
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Humorous and heartrending at the same time. Filled with eccentric but relatable characters.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bought-new, gave-away
Other than the humour, it's the constant juxtaposition of disgusting and poignant that made Withnail & I so special. And so it goes for this also.
Jun 22, 2009 added it
Read the STOP SMILING interview excerpt with author Bruce Robinson

Against the Grain: Bruce Robinson
By JC Gabel

(This interview originally appeared in STOP SMILING The U.K. Issue)

Stop Smiling: Do you think there was ever a time when movie studios welcomed the creativity and passion of writers and took their ideas more seriously?

Bruce Robinson: You could answer that question with a yes and also a no and be just as accurate with either. Writers came late into the film industry as a kind of technolog
Alan Hughes
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction Review

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman is the author's fascination with every form of bodily excretion. Feces, sputum, semen, earwax--the list is endless. We discover early on that Thomas "from the age of four ... navigated all lavatories and shat himself everywhere else," and the pages that follow detail the boy's obsession with his own fecal matter in terms that are as imaginative as they are repugnant. Having established from the get-go t

Corielle Hayley
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
What a strange book. The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman had its moments -- usually bizarre to the point of being hilarious moments -- but overall it seemed intentionally confusing and strange. Set in 1950s, The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman stars a young man named, of course, Thomas Penman. His household is quite bizarre: his parents are locked in some unspoken war that he can't quite figure out, but it involves their multitude of dogs being allowed to shit all over the house. His grand ...more
Matthew Peck
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: laugh-out-loud
Being a fan of Bruce Robinson's incomparable films WITHNAIL & I and HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING, as well as Simon Pegg, I was immediately intrigued upon seeing Pegg gush about this book to NPR ( I'd had no idea that Robinson was also a novelist. Despite occasional stylistic habits that annoy (too many ellipses at the ends of paragraphs!), he's a natural. He is English, after all.

In spite of a mouthful of a title that seems to promise forced quirk
Ian Mapp
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Strange little book that is amusing and kept me interested and amused for a while.

A collection of the young Pelman thoughts of adolescence through his teenage years - where the common theme is shite. The back page of the book states that "his name was thomas penman, a 13 year old asthmatic short arse with big ears and an unwholesome charactaristic..."

This transpires to be shitting himself for pleasure.

Shite also becomes the medium through which his warring parents attempt communication - so ther
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"But this time of the year she was in her vaults, underground, and here she resided alone, spending most of her life in darkness, like a tongue." -- pg 48

"At either end of the mirror were additional sources of reflection. He had never known their worth before but now understood they could be manipulated to supply alternative views, views that Gwen might get, and it was her view that he was after. Both were adjusted to reveal an aspect of himself that he was startled to realise he'd never seen be
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the first time I've ever bought a book thanks to a front cover (certainly looks bizarre).

Before reading this book I didn't really have any expectations in regards to the plot, and in reality as you read it you sense that story-wise there really isn’t much to stick your teeth into however as you read it this seems entirely irrelevant. This book was a joy to read just for the love of reading alone, it was a funny and emotional book on the adolescence of a young boy and it is rathe
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman, a very Bruce Robinson title, means nothing in and of itself but already you are starting to think who is this Thomas Penman and why are his memories so peculiar, surely they can't be any more peculiar than mine.

And that's just the thing isn't it, his memories are no more peculiar than yours or mine or anyone else for that matter they are just a simple retelling of a period in his life when he was growing up, something we all do and we all have the strange
Laura Edwards
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I started this book years ago while at college. I was reading it in the library and one line very early on in the book made me burst out laughing, very loud in a quiet library and I had to leave ("he farted in shock. It smelled like a dead chrysanthemum)" 😂😂
I never finished the book, but told my husband about it years later. He read it and loved it and spent ages pestering me to pick it back up.
So glad I did. Although it was a bit of a struggle at times, there are some absolutely hilarious scene
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
Bruce Robinson is an English director, screenwriter, novelist and actor. He is arguably most famous for writing and directing the cult classic Withnail and I (1986), a film with comic and tragic elements set in London in the 1960s, which drew on his experiences as 'a chronic alcoholic and resting actor, living i
“He didn't like religion, hadn't liked it for years, but he adored churches, loved them like old scientific instruments whose time is long past but are nevertheless fascinating and strange.” 7 likes
“But this time of the year she was in her vaults, underground, and here she resided alone, spending most of her life in darkness, like a tongue” 3 likes
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