Vee is on a forced mental health hiatus until 16th June. See you then!

Review of Flamingo Boy by Michael Morpurgo

by - March 15, 2018

Genres: Historical, WWII
Pages: 352
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 06/03/2018
Find The Author: Website
Find The Book: Book Depository/AbeBooks UK/US
(Received free from NetGalley for review)

This is a landmark new novel from the nation's favourite storyteller, set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. There, a young autistic boy lives on his parents' farm among the salt flats, and the flamingos that live there. There are lots of things he doesn't understand: but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too: and every week he goes to market with his mother, to ride his special horse on the town carousel. 

But then the Germans come, with their guns, and take the town. A soldier shoots a flamingo from the sky, and it falls to earth terribly injured. And even worse is to come: the carousel is damaged, the horses broken. For this vulnerable boy, everything is falling apart. 

 Only there's a kind sergeant among the Germans – a man with a young boy of his own at home, a man who trained as a carpenter. Between them, perhaps boy and man can mend what has been broken – and maybe even the whole town…

Michael Morpurgo truly is an incredible writer, he can find stories in places in history that have been done a thousand times and make them feel completely new and different. When I saw that he had a book releasing this year I hit request immediately, sure that a story about a young autistic boy who lives on a farm during occupied France would be incredible.

It takes a lot for me to be mad at a book but yeah, I'm pretty mad at this book. Whoever wrote the blurb likely didn't read the book. The story is told by Vincent, when he is older. He tells of when he was young and travelled to France after nearly being smacked on the skull by a painting, where he met Kazia and Lorenzo. Then, Kazia tells him of when she was young and the story we hear in the blurb, about the flamingos and the carousel and what happened when the Germans came to town.

"Lorenzo loved everything to be the same, even goodbyes. Goodbyes, hellos, sausages and songs, he loved what he knew, never wanted anything to be different. The trouble is that things do change, whether we like it or not. And for Lorenzo any change was always difficult. It still is sometimes."

To tell a story with so many layers like that is a truly bizarre choice and honestly, I'd have cut Vincent out entirely. It should have just been told from Kazia's point of view, especially as by having the older versions of her and Lorenzo meant that there was no suspense or fear for them when the Germans came to their town. I spent the majority of the book worried about a carousel at most.

 The idea of the story is fantastic, we need more diverse characters and choosing a gypsy girl and an autistic boy as our central characters was such a great idea, especially as they're in an environment we don't often see in books, with views we almost never read about. Unfortunately this felt like he had an idea but couldn't really be bothered to spend the time to perfect it, so just sent out the first draft.

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