Favorite Friday is a bookish meme which was started a couple of weeks ago over at The Midnight Book blog. Since the prompts posed interesting questions I decided to join last week, discussing how my favorite genre is constantly evolving (read the discussion here). This week it is all about an underrated favorite book.
I really liked the prompt since I have read quite some books which have not been popular when looking at the number of ratings. I did a quick search in the GoodReads database, and more than half of the >2200 books I have read have less than a thousand ratings. I plan to look through them and suggest some hidden gems in a later post, because for today I had already selected the book I wanted to discuss. (Although with 19.000 ratings, it is hardly as underrated as some of the other books on my shelf).
Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies. I read this years ago (2012 apparently) together with one of my online book clubs, but this is one of the books I still think about even now. I am sure many of the details have been lost to time in my head, but the combination of grief, string theory and Pachelbel’s Canon in D worked very well for me. The title is not much of a spoiler, since Skippy will be dead by page 10. Skippy is also not a kangaroo. Skippy Dies resolves on WHY Skippy dies and HOW his friends will have to deal with it.
Discussions were heated, since some people didn’t like how it is one of those novels where there is seemingly not a lot of action and not a lot of things happening, but I personally didn’t mind. For me the fact I am still talking about this book I read 8 years ago says enough. However, whenever I wanted to discuss it with bookish friends, it seemed no one had heard of it, which is why I wanted to give it a little spotlight.
Just one of the things I really liked is that I’ve been told (I didn’t check it myself), that all the music in Skippy Dies (and there is quite some music mentioned) is in the same key as Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which plays an important part in the book. I always enjoy these little details, but I couldn’t help but think out this video:
A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies wrings every last drop of humour and hopelessness out of life, love, mermaids, M-theory, the poetry of Robert Graves, and all the mysteries of the human heart.
Why does Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin’s venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop?
Could it have something to do with his friend Ruprecht Van Doren, an overweight genius who is determined to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory?
Could it involve Carl, the teenage drug dealer and borderline psychotic who is Skippy’s rival in love?
Or could “the Automator”, the ruthless, smooth-talking headmaster intent on modernizing the school, have something to hide?
Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the subject of this dazzling and uproarious novel, unraveling a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined. With a cast of characters that ranges from hip-hop-loving fourteen-year-old Eoin “MC Sexecutioner” Flynn to basketball-playing midget Philip Kilfether, packed with questions and answers on everything from Ritalin, to M-theory, to bungee jumping, to the hidden meaning of the poetry of Robert Frost, Skippy Dies is a heartfelt, hilarious portrait of the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, and a tragic depiction of a world always happy to sacrifice its weakest members. As the twenty-first century enters its teenage years, this is a breathtaking novel from a young writer who will come to define his generation.
Have you read Skippy Dies? What is an underrated novel you think I should read? – Please let me know in the comments!