The Anatomy School, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


This is the story of the growing up of Martin Brennan, a troubled boy in troubled times, a boy who knows all the questions but none of the answers.

This is Belfast in the late sixties. Before he can become an adult, Martin must unravel the sacred and contradictory mysteries of religion, science and sex; he must learn the value of friendship; but most of all he must pass his exams - at any cost.

A book that celebrates the desire to speak and the need to say nothing, The Anatomy School moves from the enforced silence of Martin's Catholic school retreat, through the hilarious tea-and-biscuits repartee of his eccentric elders to the awkward wit and loose profanity of his two friends - the charismatic Kavanagh and the subversive Blaise Foley.

An absorbing, tense and often very funny novel which takes Martin from the initiations of youth to the devoutly-wished-for consummation of the flesh, Bernard MacLaverty's new book is a remarkable re-creation of the high anxieties and deep joys of learning to find a place in the world.


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Review by

The central image is photography, Martin Brennan's hobby. The idea of seizing 'the whole essence of something in a single photograph'; dirty photos; photos of exam papers for cheating; Martin's mother's old photos, of the past, of Martin as a boy. Eventually, Martin realises he wants to be a photographer. A novel about faith - losing it and keeping it. About finding your place in the world. [Oct 2004]

Review by

Seventeen year old Martin Brennan has failed his exams and is retaking the year, in his new class he finds himself befriended by the popular and athletic Kavanagh, a friendship that surprises but also pleases Martin. This is Belfast in the 1960s, troubled times for that city, but also for Martin, a Catholic boy whose mother hopes might choose the priesthood, who is under pressure to pass his exams, a rather naive boy who has a lot to learn about much including sex and friendship.With Kavanagh's help Martin makes progress, a progress accelerated with the appearance of a new boy in school, Blaise Foley. The mysterious and irreverent Blaise attaches himself to to Martin and Kavanagh with potentially disastrous results as among other things they hatch a scheme to pass their exams.We follow Martin and Kavanagh later at the anatomy school where we find Martin helping his friend, but also where Martin also finally discovers much to his delight some more earthly pleasures.Interspersed with Martin's schooling are episodes in his family life where his mother's regular weekly evenings at home to the local priest and a couple of opinionated parishioners provide further humour.Frequently very funny, The Anatomy School is a very entertaining account of a likeable young boy finding his way through the uncertainties of life discovering the value of friendship and eventually the delights of the flesh.

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