Guardian Review: Nicholas Dane by Melvyn Burgess Books | The Guardian

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Guardian Review

Patrick Ness reviews Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess

This is good reviewing...

Nick escapes Meadow Hill, and Burgess then spends another 200 pages sticking too closely to Dickens, rounding up his own Fagin, Nancy and Bill Sikes. The sexual abuse story fades badly into the background, and when it does finally return, it does so in a way that is both anticlimactic and feels like a failure of nerve from one of the nerviest writers around.

There is some sloppy writing and plotting, too, and aside from Muriel's friend Jenny who makes some effort to save Nick, the female characters are unreadable. Fellow lost teen Stella, who initially shows some spark with Nick after he escapes, settles into being merely a passive abused girlfriend who meets a gratuitous end. Likewise, Burgess's attempt at a Dickensian grotesque in social worker Mrs Batts, with her careless evil and Jean Brodie accent, is a joke that never comes off.

Much of Nicholas Dane feels like a real, personal attempt to reckon with a deeply uncomfortable but necessary issue, told in Burgess's grimly unsparing voice. What he hasn't done, however, is successfully fit it to a story which services that intention. A reader, perhaps especially a teenage one, will feel properly upset at the horror, and then dismayed as that horror dissipates into something more muddled.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on June 6, 2009 12:41 PM.

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