Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Five Boys” as Want to Read:
Five Boys
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Five Boys

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  164 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
When Bobby is evacuated from London to a remote Devonshire village, a strange new chapter of his life begins. Empty of its menfolk, the village is given over to the “stay behinds”: the women, the old and young, and five terrifying boys who accuse Bobby of being a Nazi spy. Then, there is the enigmatic Bee King, a mysterious figure who exercises a powerful, hypnotic influen ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Five Boys, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Five Boys

The Syrian Virgin by Zack LoveAnissa of Syria by Zack LoveThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes SaavedraThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
123 books — 25 voters
The Lives of Others by Neel MukherjeeThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonGetting Colder by Amanda CoeHotel World by Ali SmithPilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones
The Encore Award
100 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Blew me away. This book is another work of art from Mick Jackson, who since I read The Underground Man is an author I am following closely.

Five Boys is fantastic. It has character, humour, intrigue and interest. If you're looking for a novel that will whisk you away and carry you along with it, then this is the one for you.

Nov 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. What a great read. I've read some poor reviews of this on Amazon, and can't understand why people didn't like it. The main criticsim seems to be that the character we meet at the beginning, young Bobby the evacuee, disappears part way through the book. However - although he was a lovely character and sorely missed - he wasn't the focus of the book, he isn't after all one of the Five Boys of the title.
The book is set in a small village in Devon during WW2 the Five
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. No, it doesn't have a conventional storyline, but it has wonderful characters and language and originality and truly beautiful writing. I would've given it five stars if, as someone else mentioned, the first character to which the reader is introduced disappears from the narrative partway through the book. I liked that kid and I wanted to hear more about him.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I just couldn't get in to this book. I tried several times as I don't like to NOT finish a book, but I just didn't enjoy it. There were parts that were "ok" so I'm giving it a 2.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Confusing and slow
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really had no idea what to expect from this. I had a great time reading "Ten Sorry Tales" by the same author and was just curious to see what else he wrote. The pace of this is very calm and makes the read almost meditative. Slowly, a picture of a quite realistic seeming little town is built, piece by piece, following first one character and then another, combining finally into one big picture of the place. And then, halfway through I was amused and thought that was all the book had to offer. ...more
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really several different stories - possibly a deliberate attempt to combine conflicting ideas, based on the title. Trying very hard to be like Pat Barker, but doesn't quite get there. Well written, but more Arthur Ransome than Graham Greene.
Simon Evans
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a cross between The Famous Five and The League of Gentlemen, this strange and charming novel starts like a boys own adventure story but becomes increasingly laced with dark humour. The chapters are often like perfect short stories themselves.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
A well written book and I loved the first part and the little refugee boy. But after that the story scattered around various characters without clear direction.
B. Tollison
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
A unique WWII story that is less a novel and more a collection of loosely related and stitched together short stories. With no tangible thread connecting the discrete and isolated narratives I felt Five Boys never really managed to get into any sort of rhythm and so I found myself continually disengaged from the story, setting, and characters.

A few positives to begin; the writing itself is clear, easy to follow, and generally well balanced in terms of dialogue, action and exposition and Jackson'
Alison Wassell
I have really mixed feelings about this book. My main problem with it is that the main plot thread only really begins more than halfway through the novel. Prior to that, it's a pleasant little book about life in Devon during the Second World War. It is almost a collection of short stories, a set of anecdotes, some poignant, some highly amusing. There are some beautifully drawn, eccentric characters. The central protagonist is Bobby, a young evacuee sent to live with a benevolent spinster with no ...more
Ian James
Mar 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. The book is subtitled "a novel" - that is an exaggeration.

It started off well, bringing us into the repressed angst of a small boy being sent to live with strangers in the countryside during the blitz, butr Jackson soon leaves this character and the book devolves into a pointless collection of loosely connected short stories, vignettes and character sketches, all with a very routine two-dimensional style - like the memoirs of some avuncular teller of children's stories. At the end
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange little book. Two different things seemed to be going on.

First the book is a series of anecdotes about those who stayed behind when the men of a village head to war. The five boys of the title are sons of these men, who are joined by Bobby, an evacuee from London. Each little chapter is an episode in itself, with an unusual, eccentric adventure in which the boys take part. Bobby's mum arrives and we presume he is taken back to London.

Suddenly, the mysterious bee-king arrives in
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Have just finished reading this as part of a book project. While I can appreciate the writing style, it was not for me. I found all the different story lines very jagged (a bit like GoT, where you suddenly find yourself without the main character you hung all your hopes of a fluid storyline to) and the things deliberately left unsaid had me scurrying back through the chapters to figure out what had happened. I'm sure it's filled with clever metaphors, allegories and whatnot, but it did not sit r ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I read the Danish version. I quite liked this story, how it seemingly hasn't got an overall plot or storyline, but just the story of a small village and the characters within. It has a bit of karma to it in the end.
But one thing I didn't get; was the Bobby storyline. When I was finished I couldn't really figure out what significans he had to the story. Jackson could just as easily have started with the five boys and it wouldn't have made a difference. It has the feeling of not being edited enou
Jan 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I picked this book up in a bookstore in London to read during the summer I was working there. I was enamored with British fiction about World War II, and had high expectations. This book would have been a solid 4 stars if not for the ending, which made me feel like I'd fallen into some sort of C.S. Lewis allegorical nightmare. But up until the weirdo Jesus Christ/pied piper teacher thing going on, I was digging the English-village-in-wartime story.
Colin Heber-Percy
A curious novel that abandons its hero half way through, and flirts with being a string of connected short stories. Evocative, characterful and funny. If less immediately engaging than The Underground Man, Five Boys still deserves an esteemed place among WW2 evacuee / rites of passage novels like Goodnight Mr. Tom.
Antoinette Maria
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Writing is solid but the story isn't engaging. Unclear if the author was going for a bunch of vignettes (which could've been lovely) or a story about the 5 boys (who, except for Aldred, are virtually indistinguishable). The Bee king story didn't engage at all. I really wanted to follow the little boy at the beginning since his was the most interesting but that just gets dropped halfway through.
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Bobby is evacuated from London to the Devonshire countryside and billeted with the spinster Miss Minter. One of my favorite scenes is when, desperate for an idea to keep Bobby occupied, Miss Minter dumps out her soup bean mixture and asks him to sort out the peas an beans.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good writing style but I found the story a little disconnected.
Peter Pinkney
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
On holiday with my partner, and she read this book, and suggested that I would love it-I did!
Richard Mulholland
Hard to describe. Nice read if not a bit weird
Lynn Hutchinson
Enjoying this so far, story of an evacuee from London to the south-west.
Aug 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Bobby is sent away from London and to the care of a spinster who has no idea how to entertain boys.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This really didn't go anywhere! It started really well and then split into two parts without direct conclusions. Disappointing!
Teresa Mills-clark
Delightful. Well crafted. Clear prose.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
I have no desire to finish this book.
rated it liked it
Feb 08, 2014
Peter Abelsen
rated it it was amazing
Mar 10, 2013
Ben Carroll
rated it liked it
Mar 31, 2011
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Forger
  • Sacred Country
  • Tolkien's Gown & Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books
  • Billie Morgan
  • That Darn Cat (Undercover Cat#1)
  • The Bookshop / The Gate of Angels / The Blue Flower
  • The scarecrow: A novel
  • The Fanatic
  • Beatniks
  • The Middle Ground
  • Helping Verbs Of The Heart (Quartet Encounters)
  • Ellipsis
  • Making Things Better
  • A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony
  • Darkness and Day
  • You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free
  • The House Of Thirty Cats
  • Surrendering to Marriage
Mick Jackson (born 1960) is a British writer from England, best known for his novel The Underground Man (1997). The book, based on the life of William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and for the 1997 Whitbread Award for best first novel.

Mick Jackson was born in 1960, in Great Harwood, Lancashire, and educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar Sch
More about Mick Jackson
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“The closer it came the more speed it gathered about it, until suddenly it was tearing a great hole right through the day.” 2 likes
More quotes…