Tag Archives: the godless boys

Paperback recommended read: The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood

26 Mar

the godless boys naomi wood

 In my never-ending quest to get through a million books a month (approx), sometimes my memory isn’t able to cope with the excessive influx of verbiage. I’ll admit it, I’ve been known to forget characters’ names, plot lines, and especially endings, of books  that I’ve read just a few months ago. But this isn’t the case when it comes to Naomi Wood’s The Godless Boys, which I read over a year ago. I can still remember the salty tang of the sea and the brutal tenderness that the book threw at me. With the paperback out in April, I really recommend you put it on your radar (it would make an especially good book club read). Here’s my mini review…

Whoever said religion and politics shouldn’t be discussed at dinner parties might need a rethink, as this tale of faith and power from a young British writer is bound to get tables talking. The Godless Boys envisions a 1950s England governed by the Church. Following a period of political unrest, all non-believers are exiled to the Island, where religion is illegal. We join the story in 1986 when a new generation is growing up on the Island. Nathaniel, a beautiful yet dangerous 16-year-old, is the leader of the Malades, a group of boys who patrol the island looking for believers, or ‘gots’, to punish. In their uniform of military jackets, tight jeans and shaved heads, the gang initiate a campaign of violence and harassment.

When an English girl appears on the Island looking for her missing mother, Nathaniel is shocked to find himself falling for her. But then his best friend Jake discovers his secret and the consequences will change their lives forever.

An exploration of gang terror with whispers of A Clockwork Orange (although a lot less violent) and a nod to the rivalry in Lord of the Flies, the novel also has shades of 2006’s This Is England.

But it’s the surprising tenderness and cliché-free sentimentality that sets this story apart. Woods’ degenerates care for their mothers, idolise their fathers and secretly long for love, but feel increasingly trapped by the stark isolation and loneliness of island life. A sub-plot of unrequited love and redemption is particularly poignant. The language meanwhile is vibrant and evocative, with frequent and unusual references to the sea giving a tangible bitterness to this sharp story about lives saved, and doomed, by faith.