The History Boys by Alan Bennett

This is the last read for one of my book-club’s and the last book-club of 2012. *sobs quietly*. Book-club is amazing, it’s a magical place where everyone gathers and discusses ‘the chosen one’. Sometimes people haven’t read it for several reasons, other times it can create heated debates or as in The White Swan discuss a TV show (Sunset Beach. What you’ve never heard of it?!? it was channel 5’s main soap. Google it, it’ll blow your mind!) because I thought a book reminded me of the set – up. So here’s my first attempt at a book review. And thank you to the three I go to, I’ve had a fantastic year!

The History Boys -Alan Bennett

“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.”


Quote from the film “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours”


This is the second of two plays read at book-club and I think It’s quite interesting and different reading a play, I think it makes you work harder as things aren’t set out so that it’s a continuous read. The scene is described then it’s followed by dialogue of the characters, each line starting with the names of the characters.

The main problem I had with this book was trying to remember who was who. Perhaps if the word ‘Mr’ in front of the male teachers I might have found it easier.  The other thing that threw me was the four pages where they talk in French  I tried to translate it but couldn’t get the jist of it. I got a bit annoyed at myself for not being able to remember French from school or the fact that the amazing app I downloaded helped me to translate it but I lost patience trying to copy it down so I ended up skipping that bit.

I didn’t pick up on who was meant to be the lead character in this or whether all of them were. But surely in a play as well as a story someone should stand out? I got very confused to who was teacher and who was boy. Also with the setting, the places it was set in a sixth form in Sheffield but I didn’t really pick up on the setting either. I knew they were in a classroom but wasn’t sure on the type or style. Although I did give a shout of ‘hooray’ when Durham was mentioned and instantly thought of home.

When reading this I did like the fact that it was about a bunch of boys sometimes being idiotic and in some cases winding up their teacher(s) and I liked  the way we get to find out expressions with the subtle hints of ‘says (doubtfully)’ and the one I liked ‘(mimes being mystified)’ . Like I said before it just took me a few attempts to grasp who was who and it was made worse when the two teachers were put together in a class and then I was completely lost. I did like the relationship between the characters but missed the plot completely. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about and the it jumped to a few years down the line and left me thinking ‘how did I miss that’. I did enjoy reading it although it doesn’t sound like it or perhaps reading plays aren’t for me and I should watch the film and do my usual when a book turns into a film or I discuss the book with someone else, ‘oh, so that’s what it was meant to mean, silly me.’

Overall I really enjoyed it, I like the writing style just not the structure, I think it lacked something that didn’t quite bring it together and so I  look forward to seeing the film and it answering some questions.


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