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How to Build a Boat (2023)

by Elaine Feeney

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1055262,145 (3.67)29
Fiction. Literature. Humor (Fiction.) HTML:

Longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize ? One of the Globe and Mail's "Sixty-Two Books to Read This Fall"

A funny and deeply moving novel about a boy, his dream, and the people who lend him a hand, by the acclaimed author of As You Were

Jamie O'Neill loves the colour red. He also loves tall trees, patterns, rain that comes with wind, the curvature of many objects, books with dust jackets, cats, rivers and Edgar Allan Poe. At age thirteen, there are two things he especially wants in life: to build a Perpetual Motion Machine, and to connect with his mother, Noelle, who died when he was born. In his mind these things are intimately linked. And at his new school, where all else is disorientating and overwhelming, he finds two people who might just be able to help him.

How to Build a Boat is the story of how one boy and his mission transforms the lives of his teachers, Tess and Tadhg, and brings together a community. Written with tenderness and verve, it's about love, family and connection, the power of imagination, and how our greatest adventures never happen alone.… (more)

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» See also 29 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
I feel somewhat in conflict with myself about this novel. I've read the reviews which praise it on many levels, and I enjoyed it too. But I was never fully engaged. This is about Jamie, who's probably autistic, whose mother died giving birth to him, and who's being raised by his father. It's also about Tess, and about Tadhg, both teachers at the strict, old fashioned and conventional high school where he's just started and who also have had somewhat unstructured lives. It's about how these two teachers, in different ways, build an unlikely community that help Jamie to build a boat, fulfilling his wish to make a perpetual motion machine of some kind in his efforts to reconnect with his mother I never quite believed in this community. What I did relish was the parts of the book written through Jamie's thoughts. These are impressionistic, poetic, darting hither and yon. And the picture painted of a young teacher, brought up chaotically, whose adult life is also in unwanted chaos. An interesting read that was fo me only partly successful. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
[3.25] This was a solid five-star read in the first half, and an ever-so-disappointing three-star read in the second half. In all candor, I became disengaged and even bored long before the final pages. This is surprising given the fact that I’ve loved previous coming-of-age tales involving children who experience life on the autism spectrum (For example, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was amazing). Nevertheless, the teenaged protagonist and his quest to connect with his mom who died when he was born is a touching exploration of one boy’s effort to grapple with grief. ( )
  brianinbuffalo | Mar 9, 2024 |
A heart-warming and thoughtful novel that is full of optimism and hope. It is set in a fictitious Irish town, Emory where we enter the world of 13 year old Jamie, a beautiful soul who loves the colour red and has a special way of looking at the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an excellent read.

“To some, the world is filled with threats. To others, opportunities.”
(from Ch 29) ( )
  Carole888 | Jan 29, 2024 |
3. How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney
OPD: 2023
format: 295-page paperback
acquired: December read: Jan 7-14 time reading: 7:50, 1.7 mpp
rating: 4
genre/style: contemporary fiction theme: Booker 2023
locations: contemporary western Ireland
about the author: Irish poet, novelist, and playwright from a farm in Athenry, County Galway (b1979)

I'm working through the Booker longlist and this is now the tenth of the 13 books that I have read or listened to. Remarkably, they have all been good or great, this one fitting in as another great read, another book I'm grateful to have been led to.

A book of unstable minds and missing parents. Jamie is 13 and mathematically obsessed and well advanced, his nonstop mind going ever in many directions, and not particularly well in the here and now. He mother died in childbirth as a teenager. He wants to build a perpetual motion machine that he feels with bind him in a time-alternate or free state and allow him to reach his mother, who only exists for him as a teenage swimmer racing in a pool on a video. That's only part of the novel.

Tess, the literature teacher at Jamie's all-boys school in western Ireland, has her own stability issues. She also never knew her mother. She's unhappy, in an unhappy miscommunicating marriage, and she is exhausted by teaching, yet deeply committed, and she looking for something, wandering around through the town's woods. She touches something. Her exhaustion and missteps and wanting all reached me. She bonds with Jaimie and leads him to another teacher, male, single, outwardly stable (who never knew his dad).

That's a lot of description. This is a novel of searching within distraction. In that way, it has parallels to [Prophet Song], although no dystopia here, just a dysfunctional all-boys school, which is maybe enough. And dysfunctional relationships. The different ways these characters work through their own mental confusions, trying to find whatever unknown thing it is they are looking for in whatever indirect way, is what makes this novel, for me, especially well done and thoroughly enjoyable to read.

Recommended to anyone. It has universal appeal.

2024
https://www.librarything.com/topic/356616#8365614 ( )
  dchaikin | Jan 15, 2024 |
Showing 4 of 4
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There are some times when I'm in a big forest and I don't know where I'm going. But then somehow I come to the top of a hill and I can see everything more clearly. When that happens it is really exciting.

Maryam Mirzakhani
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Fiction. Literature. Humor (Fiction.) HTML:

Longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize ? One of the Globe and Mail's "Sixty-Two Books to Read This Fall"

A funny and deeply moving novel about a boy, his dream, and the people who lend him a hand, by the acclaimed author of As You Were

Jamie O'Neill loves the colour red. He also loves tall trees, patterns, rain that comes with wind, the curvature of many objects, books with dust jackets, cats, rivers and Edgar Allan Poe. At age thirteen, there are two things he especially wants in life: to build a Perpetual Motion Machine, and to connect with his mother, Noelle, who died when he was born. In his mind these things are intimately linked. And at his new school, where all else is disorientating and overwhelming, he finds two people who might just be able to help him.

How to Build a Boat is the story of how one boy and his mission transforms the lives of his teachers, Tess and Tadhg, and brings together a community. Written with tenderness and verve, it's about love, family and connection, the power of imagination, and how our greatest adventures never happen alone.

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