A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. – Nelson Mandela
The Boy From Brighton was a strange read. It was a great story. It just took me to the very end to figure out where it was going. At times it seemed to be going nowhere and everywhere, but that didn’t keep me from loving it. From laughing and crying and feeling empathy for every single character in the story. Geoffrey Knight created characters in forty-three pages that I feel like I know better than some in novels ten times that length.
Charlie and his mother are leaving again. Another in a long series of abusive boyfriends. Charlie stands up to this boyfriend, he says “fuck“ for the first time in his eleven years.. He protects his mother for the first time.
Charlie has no memory of the first four years of his life. When he was four, he had a heart attack. In his child’s mind, his heart was replaced with an old-style alarm clock. “The kind that go tickety-tock all day and all night long. The kind with the earmuff bells on top.”
I felt Charlie’s child-like wonder in the fact that he believed his heart would never stop, never break. If his mother’s heart was broken by the man du jour, she could just get a new one like he had.
Aunty June had to come out at night and pick up Charlie and his Mum again. She had never liked Charlie, thought him an “odd tot“. In just the few words of interaction between the two, Knight had me feeling her disdain for Charlie. Then moments later in a private moment that Charlie inadvertently witnessed, a completely different facet of Aunty June’s personality shone through. Just a glimpse was all that Knight gave me, but I saw it so clearly.
Aunty June told Charlie to go to the pier because his Mum was tired and needed him to not “make a racket.” It was 7:30 am. She gave him a few dollars and sent him on his way. He went to the end of the pier and saw just the railing and the water separating him from France. It was so sad. I was sad, but Charlie only felt the wonder of it all. Would his tickety-tock heart keep going in the water? Would his Aunty June chase after him if he jumped in and made it to France? In the next second, he had fallen in.
He awoke cold, wet and with strange lips against his. It was The Boy From Brighton who pulled him from the water. Charlie’s heart re-started and the little earmuff bells went “ring-a-ding-ding!” The skinny boy with the Smiths t-shirt helped Charlie start breathing again and took him to his flat to patch up his cut chin. After a failed attempt to shop-lift some band aids and a stow-away ride on the tram. How exciting this was! Charlie seemed to take it in stride, but I felt the excitement he should have felt. Would they get caught as the security guard chased them? Would they get kicked off the tram?
The entire story, from the chasing the curlers so they wouldn’t go down the storm drain to kissing the boy (whose name was Joe) to meeting his sad brother and his brother’s sad, pregnant girlfriend seemed to be about Charlie believing that his tickety-tock heart didn’t feel things like other people. So Knight makes the reader feel them instead. Exceptional read and I can’t recommend it more highly.
Reviewed by: Tina