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The History Boys by Alan Bennett
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The History Boys (2004)

by Alan Bennett

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    Lessons of the Masters (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by George Steiner (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: Lecture One in Steiner's book is particularly useful to read alongside Bennett's play; a connection that Bennett himself acknowledges in his introduction.
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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I loved this play when I saw it in NYC so on my way out of the theater, I fished some change out of my pocket and bought it right there. Not my most money-wise moment but I was hungry for some good reading.

Reading the play was even better since I was able to catch things I'd missed when I first saw it on stage. It isn't exactly the most economical play with somewhere around 11 characters on stage, but I think the British have more money for theater. Lucky cats, they are.

This is an excellent play, with every word being weighed and measured. ( )
  Caitdub | Oct 24, 2013 |
The perfect encapsulation of the joy, the value and the importance of education for all. ( )
  Ceilidhann | Sep 20, 2013 |
I like reading Tony award-winning plays, and The History Boys won a Tony for best play. I was very excited to read it as a result.

There was a lot of really good stuff to chew on throughout the play. The dialogue was fast-moving, and there were few, if any stage directions. The teacher characters were pretty well-developed, I think, but some of the boys remained very shallow, I felt.

One thing I will say about this play is that it is one that really suffered from just reading rather than being seen. Many times, I can read plays and get a lot out of them without seeing them. Throughout The History Boys I felt like I was missing something important because I was only reading the play. That was disappointing for me, because I felt like it was untold depths that I was missing.

Don't get me wrong; I did enjoy reading it, and it was a very quick read as well. But I definitely want to see a production of it. Oh, and I need to learn French to appreciate the first few pages as well!

The introduction by the author is very thorough and brings out some moments that might otherwise be glazed over in the reading. These moments are ones that came directly from the author's life. At first, I just skimmed the intro, but then after I was a few pages in, I actually read it in depth. It helped frame the play for me.

Like I said, I will definitely be looking for some kind of visual medium to see this play in action, because just the page wasn't enough for me. That's not the author's fault, though - plays were meant to be seen! ( )
  Esquiress | May 7, 2013 |
I bought the movie version of 'The History Boys' years ago - I think I was at uni, so it was probably when it first came out on DVD - but I barely remember a thing about it. In case you haven't come across it before, it's basically a play about eight boys trying to get into Oxford and Cambridge, under the watchful eyes of old romantic Hector and young tutor Irwin. Anyway, I DO remember chuckling away at the boys' cheek, and Richard Griffiths being wonderful, so when I heard that he'd passed away recently it seemed like revisiting it would be a fitting tribute. This time I hit the library and got hold of a copy of the script first, hoping that I'd maybe catch some of the wordplay and nuances better that way!

The first thing I have to say about this book is that I really enjoyed Alan Bennett's introduction. Obviously the point of a play is to be watched, and reading the script isn't for everyone, but a good introduction is always a valuable addition to the experience, as far as I'm concerned. Bennett's is wryly amusing and very interesting, particularly for someone younger, like me, who tripped into higher education in the noughties when the whole process and meaning was rather different. It explains the play's firm roots in Bennett's own journey through the education system, and points out little elements of various characters that come from the playwright's life and the people he knew. It was nice having that context in mind when I started reading!

On to the play itself... I thought it was wonderful! As with so much of Bennett's work, it managed to combine provocative thought and deep themes with giggle-aloud humour and irresistable literary eloquence. Although several of the boys took a while to straighten out in my mind, the majority of the characters (both students and teachers) are larger than life and so utterly real that I felt like I was sitting in that classroom listening to the banter and the ribbing, rather than reading a script. And it's so FUNNY! I'm sure we all remember certain people - boys, in particular - who lit up a classroom with their sense of humour, were often a bit racy or pushed their luck on occasion, but who charmed everyone including the teachers. These boys are like that, and it made reading the script such a delight!

In between the hilarity, there are also some really interesting points and discussions about education and history. Irwin's introduction of original thought by asking the boys to turn questions and concepts upside down and attack them head-on taught me more about critical thinking than I ever learned at school; if I'd read this before university my essays might have been much better! The tension between Hector and Irwin, between educational styles and purposes, between jumping through hoops and being deliberately provocative, all mixed together into one big discussion of what elements of education are more important - and indeed, whether the mad push to get to university is worth it at all. What I particularly liked was the way the very moving ending suggested how meaningless much of the boys' education really was, yet the memories of Hector and Irwin and the underlying lessons they taught still stood firm. I've found that to be quite true in my own life, and it felt like a fitting conclusion. Highly recommended - now, I'd better go and dig out that DVD again! ( )
2 vote elliepotten | Apr 18, 2013 |
A wonderful, witty play. A group of eight teenage boys are in their final year of school, preparing to take scholarship examinations for university. Oxford or Cambridge admission is the big prize. Their teachers have different ideas about the role of education which seem competitive but are complementary.

The boys and teachers verbally joust and show off throughout the play as they struggle to find what they think will be the best way to succeed at the exams. Should they learn to be showmen of history, hiding their shallow knowledge with a glib and deft ability to turn a question on its side, learning how to hide their deflection by cloaking it in humour, outrageous comments and witty asides? Or should they foster an understanding and appreciation of a wider range of inquiry?

Being boys of late teenage years, they also are wrestling with their sexuality and its expression, and are further burdened by society's oppression of gays, which was only beginning to weaken in the 1980s when this is set.

Alan Bennett's style is as usual gentle, witty and incisively understanding of the human condition. Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended is Manny's funny "Digested Read" style review on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/39431060 ( )
1 vote BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Irwin is in a wheelchair, in his forties, addressing three or four unidentified MPs.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571224644, Paperback)

"A play of depth as well as dazzle, intensely moving as well as thought-provoking and funny." --The Daily Telegraph

An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life. In doing so, he raises--with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character--not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.


(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Publisher description: An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life. In doing so, he raises not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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