The only negative thing about “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray is that by knowing the title you also already know that something very sad is going to happen in this book. And, very consistently, it happens straight on the first page. Skippy dies during a donut eating contest with his best friend, Ruprecht. This scene already reveals the atmosphere of the whole book, being sad and funny at the same time, leaving the feeling of a big tragedy.
“Skippy Dies” consists of three parts, in which you will learn which events lead to Skippy’s death, what happened afterwards and finally, why it did happen.
In the first part, called “Hopeland”, as the title already suggests, everybody is full of hope. Skippy, a shy, slightly clumsy student at a Dublin boarding school for boys, falls deeply in love with a beautiful girl from the opposing school for girls, drooling over her through Ruprecht’s telescope and hoping to finally get to meet her at the Halloween Hop, which is eagerly awaited by all of the school’s boys. Also falling in love is Howard, a former student of the school, who has returned as a teacher after failing in the outside world. An encounter with the gorgeous supply teacher, Miss McIntyre, leaves him deeply conflicted whether to hold on to what he has or whether he should hope for more in his life. In the meantime, Ruprecht, who’s Skippy’s best friend and the school’s genius, is trying to contact other dimensions by conducting strange experiments.The highlight of “Hopeland” is the Halloween Hop, whose course of events leaves everybody astonished and confused.
In “Heartland”, the second book, nobody seems to believe that Skippy actually has a girlfriend, Howard’s life is turned upside down and Ruprecht finally manages to reach out to another dimension. But soon their hopes begin to crumble, as they one by one start to realize that these life-changing events aren’t what they seemed to be, all ending in the central point of the book.
In the third part, “Ghostland”, Skippy is already gone and everything is falling apart. The left-behind struggle to make sense out of his death, everybody in his own unique way trying to prevent Skippy from being forgotten and to find a way to go on with their own lives.
When I first read the blurb I thought this would be an entertaining coming of age story with a sad touch, but actually I found “Skippy Dies” to be a lot more, having an almost philosophical level lying underneath. It’s a book about feelings of isolation, the inability to communicate and connect with the people surrounding you and the different struggles for ways to overcome these feelings. But above all the book addresses what happens to all the hopes we all have in our lives, if we should surrender or risk something trying to fulfill them and if we can trust in fortune. Finally it tries to give an answer to the question, how to deal with all the humiliations in life. And even if the answer isn’t absolutely new and certainly not right for everybody, I give the author great credit for working up the courage to provide one and for writing about such big issues without being pathetic.
Besides it is a nicely written story with a lot of slightly weird characters, therefore meeting my criteria for a good book and highly recommended. Not to forget the nicely designed look, at least the german paperback is really beautiful.
Any thought’s on this book? Have you read it or are you going to? I’m looking forward to hear from you in the comment section!