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Henry Tumour

Anthony McGowan
Apr 2006
“I mean, a talking brain tumour? Pah!”

Based in and around The Body of the Christ high school, a setting familiar to readers of Anthony McGowan’s first anarchic adventure for adolescents, ‘Hell Bent’, this second novel, “Henry Tumour” sustains the distinctive and perhaps to many adults repugnant narrative voice which has proved itself so resonant with teenage boys.

The novel opens with the singular and perplexing comment, “Arsecheese”. If this serves to bewilder readers, puzzlement is matched by that of the book’s protagonist, Hector Brunty.

Hector is, in many ways a typical teenager; self-conscious, part-tortured at school by bullies and holding a burgeoning interest in girls – most especially for Uma Upshaw… Ostensibly the novel is about Hector coming to terms with, and learning to cope with his alter-ego, Henry, a talking brain-tumour. Values lie more definitely, however, in the development of Henry’s character, his increasingly assured self-belief and his desires and wants which at points – when not tempered – make for a genuinely disturbing and challenging read.

An irreverent and some might say a highly suspect idea from the stand-point of political correctness, the novel is actually highly thought provoking and genuinely very funny. Anthony McGowan is bringing similar freshness of voice and barrels-of-belly-laughs to boys’ novels that Louis Rennison did for girls… Unlike Rennison, however, more ‘serious’ issues are interwoven here, not following moralising or overtly pedagogic means, but constantly pinioning these through the thoughts, feelings and often confusions of Hector.

The sensitive exposition of Hector’s character belies the profanities of this novel’s telling and readers are left wondering as to the exact nature of the tumour. Whether malignant or benign, can a part of ourselves that influences our actions and reactions be marginalised from us? Read “Henry Tumour” and decide for yourself…


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