12.08 Black Rabbit Summer

Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
December 2008 Meeting

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  1. moirabbc

     /  December 30, 2008

    This is a quick, easy read that sets out to tick lots of boxes for its adolescent male target group. We have drugs, a gay relationship, sensational crime, celebrity, child abuse/neglect and all the ‘fun’ of the fair.
    I feel it is all a bit much for 13/14 year olds to be exposed to in the noble cause of getting them to read and to receive the 2 central messages : don’t do drugs or weird things will happen and choose your friends carefully.
    I share the concerns about the negative female characters, especially that of Stella, whose taunting, flaunting sexuality carries the ultimate penalty. It is ironic that I am writing this with one eye on the TV showing of,’The Magdalene Sisters.’

  2. madeleinebbc

     /  December 19, 2008

    I read Black Rabbit Summer in the four days following the November meeting and then promptly forgot it. Says it all?

    I think I’ll pace myself better with the next book, I might even take notes…

  3. annettebbc

     /  December 17, 2008

    I felt the events in the story weren’t really the focus, but that the focus was about the discrepency between perceived reality (a drug induced reality) and actual reality. But I accept that my opinion could be due to me spending my working day trying to get anxious people to see the world as it really is and not the overtly anxiety provoking place they see.

    There seemed to be so many clunky bits in the story (the misogynists views, the lack of background to Pauly’s hardships, Raymond in general, Gus and Eric’s incongruent relationship, Nicole’s behaviour, the adult relationships). Was all this representative of the author’s writing style, or reflective of Pete’s immature mind? I can’t decide.

  4. richardbbc

     /  December 17, 2008

    One aspect of the novel I found disconcerting was the way there was little variation in the pace of the narrative. There would be a section break and I expected the next section to move the narrative on to a different place or time but invariably the first sentence of the new section just followed on from the last section of the previous one. In a book dealing with drug-induced perception, adrenalin rushes and psychic states this seemed to me anomalous. Or are the target audience expected to have a short attention span or to be unable to cope with a long block of text? I can though see that perhaps, along with all the detail and description, it was meant to convey how intensely vivid and unrelenting Pete’s experiences were supposed to be. I too wondered if the author was guilty of something like a misogynist attitude. Nothing in Pete’s character made such an attitude necessary especially as he seemed to have a good relationship with his mum. We did manage in our discussion to touch on the notion that this is a genre novel that successfully touches all the bases such as drugs – they are OK just so long as you don’t pay for them – though we didn’t mention Pauly’s suicide. Was that necessary or convincingly done? I thought the novel could also pass as a crime novel. It was well plotted and I quite enjoyed the conceit of the central characters being one step nearer the crime than the police. If Mr. Brooks ever writes an adult crime novel I might give it a go.

    I was sorry to hear that Moira wants to stand down as our leader. She has modestly and quietly and successfully kept the group together over the last two years and she will be a tough act to follow.

  5. Sarah

     /  December 17, 2008

    Before the meeting I was wondering whether a dislike of a book could legitimately be considered a greater reflection of the reader than of the story. Annette, who put up a convincing defence of the book, answered this question quite conclusively.

    I can only apologise for the unreceptive frame of mind in which I approached Black Rabbit Summer, and attempt to quantify my reservations objectively. (However, I expect to fail, so don’t read if easily offended!)

    It’s pedantic, but I did object to the references to having made a “mistake.” A mistake occurs when a known risk is factored in. Getting knocked over by a bus is not a mistake. It’s misadventure. Likewise, going out for an evening with friends and having everything go horribly wrong is not a mistake. There are several inferences in this book that read like a homage to risk aversion. Personally, I found this a theme of dubious value. Especially when intended for youngsters. (Admittedly, I may be keener on this message when my kids are teenagers…)

    Another message, quite literally spelt out, stated that one only sees certain facets of the characters of others. Although my circle of teenage acquaintances is small to the point of non-existence, I’m still incredulous that a young person would need to be told this.

    Like Michele, I liked the immortal black rabbit; but why the black rabbit? I couldn’t see that it existed for a purpose.

    Having seen the film of Watership Down at the cinema, at an impressionable age, the black rabbit remains a potent symbol of death, so I suppose it served as a harbinger of Raymond’s possible fate, but I felt that both rabbit and Raymond could have been developed to better effect. Especially since they were the only characters whom I found remotely interesting, believable, and (ironically) with any semblance of life.

    Some of the descriptive parts were well done. In particular, the nastiness of a fairground at night, and the wretchedness of being intoxicated. Also enjoyable was Pete’s summation at the end of the story. As to what happened; he really doesn’t know and he really doesn’t care. Quite.

  6. michelebbc

     /  December 17, 2008

    I wasn’t sure what I felt about this one. To start with I thought I’d like it, particularly the relationship between Pete, Raymond and the Black Rabbit, but once the old friends met up and Raymond vanished it made me start to feel uneasy. Perhaps this was the aim, to create a feeling of unease and claustrophobia.

    It was very easy to read and did bring back (distant!) memories of how it felt to be a teenager. I can imagine its appeal to a younger reader, but I was disturbed by the lack of any really sympathetic characters. Did I also detect a hint of misogyny? Raymonds mum – horrible, Nicole – slapper (although later we learn this may be drug induced), Stella – bitch (got what she deserved?), and even Pete’s mum at one point is described as in bed at 10am while he is left to his own devices and his policeman Dad is at work.

    I didn’t mind the fact that things were left unresolved as others at the meeting did, but I was left feeling unsettled by the story without being able to pin down exactly why.


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