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The Chronicles of Narmo

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"They don't seem to understand, don't seem to grasp that we are not just ordinary children. We Are Gonks, a proud and noble tribe. We have our own rules, our own honour, our own song that no-one can remember the words to. They can't boss us around like that"

Fifteen-year-old Morag Narmo really doesn't want to go to school any more. She and her siblings would rather feed their heads into the waste-disposal than "do the academical" . So they are all stunned when their parents whisk them out of school and embark on a home-schooling experiment. But with five children, two unruly pets and some extremely eccentric attitudes, the educational experiment soon descends into chaos...

Witty, razor-sharp and laugh-out-loud funny, The Chronicles of Narmo shows us how before Caitlin Moran knew How to be a Woman, she had to find out How to be A Girl.

142 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Caitlin Moran

24 books3,710 followers
Caitlin Moran had literally no friends in 1990, and so had plenty of time to write her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, at the age of fifteen. At sixteen she joined music weekly, Melody Maker, and at eighteen briefly presented the pop show 'Naked City' on Channel 4. Following this precocious start she then put in eighteen solid years as a columnist on The Times – both as a TV critic and also in the most-read part of the paper, the satirical celebrity column 'Celebrity Watch' – winning the British Press Awards' Columnist of The Year award in 2010 and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011. The eldest of eight children, home-educated in a council house in Wolverhampton, Caitlin read lots of books about feminism – mainly in an attempt to be able to prove to her brother, Eddie, that she was scientifically better than him. Caitlin isn't really her name. She was christened 'Catherine'. But she saw 'Caitlin' in a Jilly Cooper novel when she was 13 and thought it looked exciting. That's why she pronounces it incorrectly: 'Catlin'. It causes trouble for everyone.

(from http://www.caitlinmoran.co.uk/index.p...)

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5 stars
72 (18%)
4 stars
102 (26%)
3 stars
137 (35%)
2 stars
55 (14%)
1 star
15 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for Ana.
2,346 reviews317 followers
August 2, 2015
After finishing her most recent books, I was left a feeling a little empty on the inside at the thought that there were no more books. But lo and behold, as a sixteen-year old she published a fiction book about five kids whose mother decides to home-school them. While it is clear Caitlin Moran took some inspiration from Little Women, the delightful humor is all hers, albeit in raw form.

There is also a sense of awareness that shows up from time to time here that I wasn't expecting someone that young to be able to successfully incorporate, but it was nicely done, although transitioning from serious to lightheartedness needed some work. I would have preferred a little more plot, but all in all this was a pleasant read.
Profile Image for Jutta Swietlinski.
Author 15 books9 followers
February 23, 2023
A very amusing novel about a family enough to put anyone off - and obviously taken from (the) real life (of the author) ... :-) I had a good time reading this enjoyable book.
It seems like Caitlin Moran tried pretty hard to show how smart, funny and talented she is - but since she was only fifteen when she wrote this story, I think she was more than entitled to do that. ;-)
A little light reading - enjoyable!
Profile Image for Katy Kelly.
2,055 reviews73 followers
December 28, 2014
I recently read Terry Pratchett's Dragons at Crumbling Castle and was impressed with the promise he showed as a teenage writer. Caitlin blows him out of the water! If you didn't know this piece of writing was conceived by a teenage girl, you would be hard-pressed to guess it.

This is funny, witty, snide, with regular references to high- and low-brow culture, Caitlin uses her own family as a basis for some hilarious anecdotal stories from her teenage life in a large and eccentric family.

The maturity of the writing is astonishing. I laughed out loud several times, and just loved the whole family, from devious yet angelic baby Poppy to overwrought dad Bill.

There is a running joke about Morag's bread that is very funny, some Christmas and Easter tales, holidays, home school inspectors, and Morag as eldest child of five doubles as Caitlin's alter-ego, the slightly-overweight wannabe writer with a chaotic family life living in the back end of nowhere (my home town) living form one child benefit payment to the next.

In one scene, Morag's younger brother gets upset, and gave "a high-pitched wail that sent several devout Muslims to prayer."
In another, a queue waiting for a jumble sale to start "resembled a Chinese dragon made of bobble hats and blue rinses."
Just brilliant, varied, vivid writing.

So so jealous of her talent. I want this to be more widely known, and in schools as well - teenagers should know what others their age can achieve.

Please give this a try. You'll thank me.
Profile Image for Fran.
682 reviews56 followers
July 7, 2016
All of Caitlin Moran's fiction (this, How to Build a Girl, Raised by Wolves) have the same groundwork: large, working-class, family in Wolverhampton, with a central character that is appears to be semi-autobiographically based on CatMo at that age. I make that sound like it's a bad thing, but it's not. It does mean that things get rather repetitive, although How to Build a Girl suffered most from this as it also seemed to have whole incidents lifted wholesale from CatMo's actual life which I'd already read in How to Be a Woman.

This book doesn't have a plot, as such, and is more a series of episodes in the life of the Narmo family, with Morag as a focus. At the start, I thought this might focus on the kids becoming homeschooled, but after a couple of mentions this basically seems to be forgotten; they appear to get little structured education at home.

This is a fun book, it's a quick and easy read, and what sets it apart from CatMo's successive works is the Pratchettesque asides where inanimate objects are anthropomorphised; I'd like to see more writing like this from Caitlin Moran.
Profile Image for Chris.
731 reviews99 followers
November 16, 2021
The French title of this novella — Comment je suis devenue célèbre en restant chez moi! — misses the punning of the original English by omitting the anagram of the author’s surname and the clear reference to The Chronicles of Narnia. And yet it accurately describes how the fledgling journalist drew almost exclusively on her home circumstances while still in her early to mid-teens to win prizes and awards (such as The Observer’s young reporter competition) as well as penning this comedic family portrait, published when she was still 16.

She slims down the chaos of being the eldest of homeschooled siblings by reducing the number from an actual eight to a fictional five — Morag, Lily, Aggy, Josh and Poppy — but, one suspects, only marginally exaggerating incidents with witty hyperbole.

Twelve chapters purport to chronicle life in the Wolverhampton family from one Christmas to the next but the conceit is followed very loosely, with random incidents reported and threads reappearing now and again. I have to be honest here and say it became a bit tedious towards the end, but as a tour de force by a young author the whole is extraordinary.

The author’s introduction (presumably added in 2013 when this edition was issued) underlines how important libraries were to all the children in shaping their liberal education away from schooling of any kind, either formal or informal. She references classics by Johanna Spyri, Hans Christian Anderson and Sarah Chauncey Woolsey alongside the likes of Tolkien and Lewis, Edith Nesbit and Louisa May Alcott, Spike Milligan and Terry Pratchett. It’s very easy to spot the influences of some of these authors in the descriptions of the Narmo household while marvelling at how their essences been almost seamlessly integrated into the text.

I say almost seamlessly integrated because, especially in the second half, the narrative feels to me a bit laboured, especially with the humour which, of course, will elicit different responses from individual readers. Incidents such as a holiday in Scotland or a jumble sale felt drawn out almost to breaking point and the comedic possibilities laid on too thickly with a trowel.

Where it works best for me is in the insights into the psyches of family members: the vague responsibility felt by Morag as the eldest (clearly a self-portrait), the cunning connivances of two-year-old Poppy to get what she wants, the familiar bickering that passes between parents Bill and Carol, and the family’s casual acceptance of what is clearly an unusual state of affairs as entirely normal. Though outsiders can be depicted as caricatures (I’m thinking of when there are visits from the grandmother and from the education inspectors) there’s an amiable familial relationship amongst the tight-knit core group that feels authentic for being being founded on reality.

Finally, I took great joy from the flashes of language that indicated mature writing arriving at an early age. Here, for instance is a thumbnail sketch of Carol in Chapter Two:
In the early days of Flower Power, just after people started respecting plants and just before they started smoking them, Carol had cherished visions of being Earth Mother extraordinaire; nurture of children, worshipper of cats, wearer of the widest bell-bottoms in all of Southern England. But with the advent of Bill, and the passing of flares, these dreams had been mislaid.

Or when Morag pictures her life as a writer she declares to Josh (10): ‘I shall live in London and write my masterpiece, unhindered by male intervention. All you men do is lose socks and drink all the milk.’ Her sister Lily, at fourteen, “is a year younger than Morag: blonde, pretty, smug.” Josh, meanwhile, “had tried reading, but the words had not been in a friendly mood” — I’m sure we’ve all been there.

Or, in a Byronic turn of phrase, Christmas at the Narmos is characterised as “mad, bad, and dangerous to eat in any great quantity.” Unsurprisingly the seasonal feast of the 15-year-old writer — whether the fictional or the actual being a moot point– ends with a bang when a home-made Christmas cracker explodes and sets fire to the Christmas tree.

I leave the last word with the older Caitlin Moran giving us this picture of her nerdy younger self: “Every day, I put my hat on, and walked to the local library, and came back an hour later with a rucksack full of books.” At 13 the bespectacled teenager decided to switch from being reader to author, her first step on becoming famous while staying at home.
Profile Image for Rinn.
287 reviews217 followers
January 16, 2015
I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

Having first read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman a few years ago, I was definitely intrigued to read something that she had written at the age of only sixteen. Her previous writing showed that she is one incredibly funny woman, and as The Chronicles of Narmo shows, she was also an incredibly funny teenager.

A semi-autobiographical look at the life of the ‘Narmo’ family, there isn’t much of a plot to the story – just that Morag’s mother decides to take her and her siblings out of school and educate them at home, which leads to much tomfoolery and many shenanigans. There is no clear plotline and it is more like a series of events patched together, but that didn’t really matter when I considered the writing. I just cannot believe that Caitlin was only fifteen/sixteen when she wrote this – the descriptions are vivid, wonderful, odd and just so unique. Take this one for example:

“Bill smiled a smile last seen on a piranha with toothache that has just eaten the last dentist in the Amazon.” The Chronicles of Narmo, 32%
I just can’t imagine writing like Caitlin did at the age of sixteen as I am now, in my twenties. She has clearly always had a great talent. This is the kind of book that you can’t really compare to many others due to the author’s age at the time, and it is really very astounding all things considered – I mean just look at the quote from Terry Pratchett on the front cover! Her view on the world and her environment are, for a teenager, actually incredibly mature, and she is not afraid to really make fun of herself.

If you’re a fan of Caitlin Moran, definitely give this one a try for more of her wonderful wit and humour.
Profile Image for Lizzie.
85 reviews2 followers
April 15, 2014
People need to lighten up about this book. A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD wrote it. Alright, compared to your average chart-topper, Moran is no Dickens, but she's got a more sophisticated sense of humour and grasp of language that the majority of sixteen year olds have. AND. SHE. WROTE. A. NOVEL.

It's a little book to read when you're bored. It's not a hardcore read, it's just something to pick up and enjoy. Lighten up!

Now, Moran's OTHER books.. they're f***ing fabulous
Profile Image for Sariah.
996 reviews9 followers
July 7, 2017
Comment je suis devenue célèbre en restant chez moi ! est loin de ressembler à la lecture que j'espérais découvrir, à savoir l’histoire d’une jeune fille qui souhaite devenir auteure et comment elle y est parvenue. Mon avis sur cet ouvrage ne sera donc pas très long. Bien que court, il m’a fallu bien plus de temps que j’imaginais pour parvenir jusqu’à la fin de l’ouvrage. Je ne suis pas parvenue à...
Profile Image for Sarah.
232 reviews13 followers
June 12, 2017
At first I wasn't impressed. But then I kept in mind that a child wrote it. All in all it's good for the effort. Initially before the fantasy set in, I thought it was exactly the same story as How to Build a Girl. Pretty much is the same. I love Caitlin, but seriously?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
July 23, 2022
I found it hard to rate this. An amazing piece of work for a teenager but, as an adult, I can't decide how well children would like it. But if you are looking for more Moran as a grown up, then this probably isn't (quite) it.
Profile Image for Lunabookaddict.
327 reviews585 followers
August 30, 2018
Je pense que ça ne mérite pas plus que 3/5.
J'ai bien rigolé avec les personnages mais je n'ai pas vraiment vu le but ni la finalité?
Profile Image for Nick Lawrence.
107 reviews2 followers
October 18, 2018
Morag is bored...and doesn't want to return to school after the Chirstmas holidays to be surrounded by "thirty-one potential chicken pluckers". After a brief conversation about totalitarian authoritariansim, her mother decides to home school all the children. A year of insanity ensues!

For me, Moran's writing style is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. She is able to capture the chaos of a family as they navigate a year of visiting educational inspectors, missing Easter Eggs, family holidays and a father who refuses to get rid of his broken down car.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gretel.
491 reviews8 followers
August 23, 2014
For an author so young, this is pretty damn fantastic. Renowned journalist and author of the fantastic non-fiction book How To Be a Woman Caitlin Moran's first novel has been re-released, more than a decade after its original publishing run. The Chronicles of Narmo is about the Narmo family and their decision to take their kids out of mainstream schooling and deciding to homeschool. There really isn't that much there in the way of plot, which is a weakness of the novel, along with the plethora of characters, but Moran's distinct voice and sense of humour shines through. There are many moments that made me smile. A relatively short novel, die-hard fans of Caitlin should give this a go. This makes me very excited indeed to try out Caitlin Moran's second novel, just released recently, called How To Build A Girl.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
21 reviews
January 7, 2013
I got this book for Christmas and I wasn't sure what to expect, I had already read Caitlin's autobiography and wasn't sure whether I liked it or not. The same applies to this book. It was a good read, but nothing really happened in this book. I was waiting throughout the whole books for something exciting, but it never came. Bit of a disapointment. She was going when she wrote this though, and it's better than anything I could write, but the book was to short to get into the charecters and there wasn't much of a story line, oh well it was still an average book to me, but don't let what I've written put you off reading it, you may really enjoy it, even though I didn't. 2/5
Profile Image for Alice.
84 reviews3 followers
August 19, 2013
It's strange reading this again after such a long time. I was exactly the right age to love it when it came out and reading it back its easy to hear Caitlin Moran's voice coming through even though she was only 15 when she wrote it. It's not the most polished of books but I still loved it and enjoyed reminiscing about all the stories about big families I wrote to emulate it.
Profile Image for Peach.
123 reviews13 followers
July 26, 2012
This is adorable. I can hear Caitlin Moran's voice so clearly; even when she was 15 years old she had such a defined style. It's definitely clear that the book was written by someone without a lot of experience writing, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. Really lovely and I'm so glad I read it.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
957 reviews
March 30, 2016
Great storyline

Possibly using her own experiences Caitlin Moran creates a home life in the mid 90's when hippies were having a revival as such.
At the children's insistence they come out of standardised education and try to be home schooled.
This book is hilarious and well meaning I'm only wishing I'd have read it when I was 15 not 37.
Can't wait to read more of her books.
Profile Image for Andrew Johnston.
450 reviews5 followers
July 14, 2014
It's ok, there is no real story in this book, it's a year in the life of the family, if an adult had written this i would think that it is shite. As it was a 15 year old, I can make more allowances. It's ok.
Profile Image for Donald.
1,124 reviews9 followers
July 28, 2014
Excellent book for a teenager to have written, even if it's a thinly veiled semi-autobiographical look at her dysfunctional family. (She's certainly getting a lot of mileage out of it, with a ch4 sitcom in the works - but deservedly so)
11 reviews4 followers
November 20, 2014
I often entertain the notion that one day I could be a writer, what with my witty-yet-insightful observations about life. Caitlyn Moran one-ups me here, actually writing something - at 15, no less - and actually being better than I will probably ever be at it.
Profile Image for Mira.
Author 1 book53 followers
January 25, 2014
I waited so long to read this and was very pleased when it was reprinted recently. Unbelievable to think that Moran wrote this when she was so young.
Profile Image for Grace.
177 reviews6 followers
April 30, 2014

Love it, can't read to read everything else she's ever written or even never written.
Profile Image for Stephen Barker.
Author 5 books13 followers
September 8, 2016
Enjoyed the introduction - was otherwise a bit disappointed - there's a fair bit of hype out there about this book. (Would have given 2 stars, but allowed for the age factor!)
Profile Image for Nina (Death, Books, and Tea).
497 reviews33 followers
December 16, 2014
not awful enough for a 1, but I wasn't really gripped and it's length meant that by the time I thought about giving up I'd .nearly finished anyway.
Profile Image for Roxie Maria.
Author 3 books
May 14, 2016
It was ok

I do like Caitlin's books. This one was very funny. I just found its writing style a bit over active. It was written by her as a teen.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews

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