Having recently finished a 600-pager for my book club which I hated (no naming of names here), I was a little timid going into Skippy Dies; a similarly extensive novel, also peopled by adolescents. But Paul Murray’s novel is the kind which you don’t quite want to end. Set in a prestigious Catholic boys’ school just outside Dublin, we follow the lives of an outsider clique featuring Skippy who, as the title notes, dies within the first twenty pages. We then skip back in time to before the tragic doughnut shop incident.
I was thoroughly charmed by the boys who felt like they’d stepped directly out from my fourteen-year-old life. There’s Mario, the sex obsessed, self-proclaimed lothario whose three-year-old ‘lucky’ condom languishes in his wallet unused. Or Ruprecht, the frighteningly intelligent fat-boy who dreams of Stanford and a life proving string theory.
Murray’s meld of the tragic and comic enchanted me. I was completely sucked into this world and was excited to read a contemporary novel which so accurately invokes the pulls the modern world; the teenage boys receive instruction from anachronistic priests only to head back to their centuries old dorms and watch bizarre porn online. In that way, straddling frighteningly banal everday living and the worst realities of modern life, Skippy Dies is reminiscent of The Corrections and like Franzen, I forsee a thoroughly bright future for him.