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Coram Boy

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,841 ratings  ·  128 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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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,841 ratings  ·  128 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 Cen
Beccy Swanson
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I barely remembered reading this book as a child but, revisiting it, I recognised the creepy fascination it held over me. Covering child abuse, infanticide, sex, and insanity, this is not a book to be recommended lightly. It requires great emotional maturity to understand how the characters can do the things they do, and although it points towards a happy ending the overall tone of the novel is bleak. That said, its characters are vivid and the rich historical setting is an education in itself. ...more
Andy Verschoyle
This is a well constructed children's novel - carefully researched and with many convincing characters and a strong central narrative; and the Coram Trust is an inspirational choice as a source for the guiding principle of caring for the weak. The pace is excellent - until a slighty rushed ending - with bucketloads of cruel reality, historic accuracy, colour and authenticity. The characters - good and bad - are drawn with conviction and convincing detail, and their actions and characters develop ...more
Aug 28, 2007 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.
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Once upon a time, there was a man called "Thomas Coram" who was a sea captain by profession but decided that his philanthropic interests meant more to him. So he decided to follow his calling and set up a children's home, a foundling home. This was in the 18th century London, where reputations, family name, honor were of more significance than human lives. (Now that is a true story and the Coram hospital still exists.)

Jamila Gavin has woven a brilliant story around this plot. Otis Gardiner, pro
Ellie L
Deeply dark and harrowing, I was completely in awe of this intricately woven story which had the power to engross, repulse and enchant me, all at the same time.
Set in the eighteenth century, the fragility of family reputation collides with cruelty and greed, as one man goes to any length to take advantage of the hysteria surrounding illegitimately born children. Gavin really highlights the merciless dictatorship that is born from societal expectations, and the losses that come as a result are i
Oct 31, 2007 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.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
A fabulous window into the eighteenth century with solid characters and a genuine plot. Unflinching in its portrayal of the harsh realities of life at this time, it covers major themes including murder, poverty, injustice, physical brutality, exploitation of children, infanticide and illegitimacy. The novel would be a great springboard for all sorts of learning and exploration but I would not use it at primary school level.
Becky Allen
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first three chapters of this book paint such a dark picture of life within the context of this book, it is almost enough to put you off the story straight away. For this reason, I feel it does take a good few chapters to get into the book and you have to persist with it. However, once you are in, you’re hooked.
This book is historical fiction set in the mid 1700s and covers a time period of at least 10 years. Due to the time period this book is set in Gavin uses some really fantastic vocabula
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intense, creepy, fascinating. This was a page-turner that I would not have known about, had it not been a set text for my literature studies. Lost one star for the abrupt ending - lots of loose ends suddenly tied up in just a couple of short chapters.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, family, historical
An intricate story that continuously builds in momentum with each turn of the page. A story that is harrowing and emotional; the choice of audience needs to be selected carefully.
Laura Hands
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable historical fiction. Loved the topic but don't agree with the recommended age as 8-12 as some of the issues addressed are very upsetting. ...more
Claire Russell
Aug 17, 2012 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
Jul 12, 2012 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
Dec 02, 2011 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
Jan 19, 2012 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
Sarah Hammerton
Sep 28, 2011 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
Apr 12, 2009 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’
Ellen-Arwen 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
Oct 07, 2008 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. ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Edited down to two stars
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I did enjoy it but it takes quite a while to get into
Cassie Davis
Characteristic of her approach, Gavin innovatively foregrounds relevant, contemporary issues such as race, identity and social injustice in a historical setting. Though this may tarnish the factual accuracy of the novel, Gavin is more concerned with exploring social history, capturing attitudes, emotions and relationship dynamics, rather than being pedantic concerning dates, facts and events and foregrounds events, issues, relationships or situations, which sometimes can be easier to deal with r ...more
Becky Salmon
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Jamila Gavin use of vocabulary is something to behold. She is able to bring things to live in your mind using very explicit and specific vocabulary which would be something to study in itself. Coram boy start of with a very dark, bleak picture and can put you off to start with but once you are a couple of chapters in its gripping and hard to put down.
It is based in the eighteenth century based in both London and Gloucester. It really does describe the harsh realities of those times including; m
Oh my gosh, I'm so glad that's over!! I was so incredibly bored!
The thing is, I don't think this is a bad book exactly, it just SO wasn't my thing.


Ummm... I actually have no clue what the plot of this even was... Something about music and a bunch of random boys. Basically.

So... the plot was pretty weak. It was *just* compelling enough that I wanted to finish it, but for the most part it was BORING!

Also it was sort of confusing... I'm not quite sure WHAT happened at the end...
(view spoil
Tim Rideout
'They dumped so many little bodies along the highways and byways on their way to London, and all the time the name, Coram, Coram, Coram was repeated and repeated like a prayer, as though the very name invoked Paradise.'

Jamila Gavin's novel 'Coram Boy', published in 2000, won the Whitbread Children's Book Award.

It is easy to see why. The 18th century setting provides a rich and complex setting, with the focus on the brutality meted to children born out of wedlock. The subject matter is inevitably
Jordan Wheeler
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-novels
I really enjoyed this book. The characters all feel believeable and their motivations and goals very understandable. I particularly loved Mish, and Gavin wrote them in a very kind way. The story was gripping although slow to unfold, and the ending, whilst traumatic, was very satisfying as all the threads wove together. However, I am not sure how I would read this with children. True, it does combat some very important issues such as children's rights, racism and learning difficulties, but these ...more
Nadhira Ramadhani
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Cant help but feel that I really, really, really want a sequel to this novel or perhaps a few chapters more as an extended version. After reading this piece, there is so many questions left unanswered in regards to the characters in the book. Its so frustrating! I didn't even think I would be so engaged so much in this text and wanting more out of it, which in a way has helped me researched more about Coram in general.

Otis was so evil! Reminded me alot like Pharaoh (The horrible one who ordered
Wow. A lot better than I expected!
Such an emotional, gripping and heart wrenching story. A real page turner with some very complex and fascinating characters. There were some twists and turns that were so great near the end, it made the book even better. It's something I've not read before and I'm pleasantly surprised! Can't say I've read anything set in the 1700's, but considering it was written in like 2000, it made it easier to understand. None of that weird Ye Olde writing that I can't work
Feb 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE
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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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