Skippy Dies

“Skippy and Ruprecht are having a doughnut-eating race one evening when Skippy turns purple and falls off his chair.”

Yes, Skippy dies.  No, that’s not a spoiler.  As the opening lines and title of the novel imply, Skippy’s death  is (one of ) the main plots of the book.

A huge novel like Skippy Dies is hard to describe, let alone “review.”  On the surface, it is a story about the students, teachers, and administrators of Seabrook College – a private, all-boys, Catholic, semi-boarding school in Dublin.  But underneath, it is a “tragicomedy” (a term used by many critics/reviewers) about youth, disillusionment, love, lust, drugs, vanity, greed, mediocrity, ambition, regret, and loss.

Skippy Dies is less of a plot-driven, and more of a “day in the life of…” type of novel. Through the perspectives of different characters in the novel, – students (Skippy, Ruprecht, Geoff, Mario, Dennis, Carl), teachers (Howard the Coward), administrators (the Automator), it describes the day-to-day happenings at Seabrook, leading up to the tragic and unbelievable events that center mostly on Skippy.

Skippy Dies takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride – it’s laugh-out-loud funny, one minute, and heart-wrenching, the next.   The personalities Murray describes range from the naive and innocent, to the psychotic and criminal.  In fact, it’s amazing how all these polar opposite characters and emotions could be contained in one incredible book.

“You think that this is some kind of a Dead Poets, where we’re the evil tyrannical school, and you’re ah – damnit, the man, he was Mork, and he dressed up as the nanny – “

“Robin Williams.”

“Correct, that you’re Robin Williams? Is that it, Howard?…”

The novel opens on  Skippy’s last night alive, before it goes back in time to describe the events leading up to the tragedy.  Though readers are aware of Skippy’s fate from the get go, and majority of the book is filled with comic antics of the boys (and teachers) of Seabrook, it’s hard not to feel a deep sadness when the flashback narrative reaches the starting point of the novel.

One of the things I really liked about this novel was how it presented people and events in a realistic light. The book teaches us that sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people; doing what you think is right won’t always be appreciated by others; miraculous things won’t happen no matter how hard you wish for it; and no matter what happens, you grow up, life goes on, and sometimes, despite how bad things look, there is always some kind of happy ending.

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