Boys Don’t Cry – Fiona Scarlett – Audible Book Review
by Pat Viale
Set in a rough tower block in inner-city Dublin, ironically named after Mother Teresa, Fiona Scarlett’s remarkable début novel may be short in length but it packs quite a punch. Told with humour, the narration in this moving story alternates between two young brothers – Joe, 17, whose artistic talent has won him a scholarship to a private school and allowed him to glimpse the possibility of a better life and his younger brother, Finn, 12, who thinks only of playing football and learning to swim. Scarlett charts a turning point in their lives and the complications of their relationship with their parents; Annie and Frank.
Growing up under the shadow of Frank’s reputation as a brutal enforcer for a local drugs baron, Joe is determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps. He sees his talent as a means of escape from the cycle of crime and violence he sees all around him but is, at the same time, aware that to the other people in this school community he will always be “different”, the lad from the wrong side of the tracks they can ask to get them drugs- but the first to be accused if anything goes wrong. His determination to avoid a criminal future is put to the test when his friend, Sabine, falls into serious debt and he can see no other way of helping her.
Finn’s concerns are more innocent. He enjoys school but prefers the times spent on the playing fields with his mates (as long as he is not put in goal yet again!) and the trips to the local swimming baths. At home, his mother and brother try to protect him from scenes of violence and domestic abuse when their father is in one of his rages. However, when his teachers notice a pattern of bruises on his arms and legs they are forced to take action and it soon becomes apparent that the situation is not what they suspect but that Finn is in fact suffering from a rare cancer of the blood.
Avoiding cliche and sentimentality, Scarlett’s poignant tale shows how each of the characters struggles with this new reality and tries to keep their head above water in the harsh and unforgiving environment. She captures the verbal nuance of true Dublinese and describes a world very recognisable to anyone living in the capital. Both boys have distinctive voices, made even more clear by the excellent narration of young Irish actor, Ronan Raftery (of Moone Boy and The Terror).
Finn is told by his father early on that “Boys don’t cry. Ever” but listening to this audiobook it is hard, at times, to keep a dry eye. This is an exceptional first novel and promises great things for the future.
The audiobook is available from audible.co.uk and lasts 4hrs and 3mins