17 October 2012 ~ 0 Comments

What Doesn’t Kill You: A Boarding School Memoir by Simon Wilson

Let me get this out about this book first… the cover is terrible and doesn’t do the book justice. When I first saw it, I thought it was a bad graveyard horror novel. Having said that, we all have different tastes so I’m really glad I didn’t let that first knee-jerk reaction affect my decision to read this one.

I knew very little about boarding schools, much less boarding schools in the 1970s, going into this. I felt the author’s story was incomplete though. I get this was about his experiences at school, but I felt like it was missing a lot of the memoir pieces I have come to expect. Perhaps because the author was only eight during this time, his story wasn’t able to be fully developed, but it felt incomplete.

Having said that, he does a really good job of telling the story he does let us in on, he kept the story moving. However, a few times I did feel the story went a little disjointed. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about or where he was going. Again, this could be just him piecing together his memories from being an eight-year-old.

Well done, would have been better with more information about the before/after/etc. More meat about him and his family perhaps? Something was missing, but there’s a really good story here. I think a good editor could pull it out of him – content editing is what is needed, don’t get me wrong, the grammar was excellent.

Recommended for those who may have been in boarding schools, but always for us die hard memoir fans.

I was sent away. I was scared. I was eight years old.

‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is a sometimes sad, sometimes horrific and sometimes humorous account of my first year at boarding school beginning in September 1971.

In the days before the abolishment of corporal punishment, this expensive school found many opportunities to wield slippers, canes, plimsolls or just hard flat hands for the slightest of reasons. By today’s standards it would be called barbaric. Did we suffer? – Yes we did. Did we behave? – Mostly. Did we learn? – You bet we did!

This was a strict regime where if you didn’t have friends, your life was a living hell; where telling tales would get your lights punched out; where talking after lights out resulted in six of the best on your bare behind with a hard-soled slipper; where talking back to teachers meant you couldn’t sit down for hours. This was my home.

The food was bad. Bullying was rife. Beatings were the norm.

Welcome to boarding school!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book count for 2012: 22

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