Friendly Fire by Patrick Gale

FF is a story told by Sophie, an orphan, who thanks to her love of reading and high degree of intelligence is awarded a scholarship at an ancient boarding school.  The story is told by Sophie and follows her struggle to make friends and deal with the lessons of everyday life.

This book was chosen for review by my book club.  It is a well written and easy to read novel.  I enjoyed the school setting and thought PG did an excellent job of bringing the place to life with it’s rambling buildings and old traditions.  I liked the descriptions of the different families and the places they spent time in.

Basically, Sophie, because of her own peculiar maturity and intellect is a bit of a social misfit and her friends are similary cast.  We see Sophie struggle through a number of tentative ‘relationships’ with the boys in her life, starting with the exotic Lucas who Sophie is inexplicably drawn to, then Wilf who was Sophie’s first friend and protector at the orphanage and lastly Charlie, who becomes friends with Sophie and Lucas after he suffers a family bereavement and is paired with Lucas for a period.  The three experience a strange relationship that is never entirely comfortable and usually seems to rely on one becoming set against the other two.

This is an enjoyable coming of age novel, set in an interesting and well portrayed setting which highlights the different social backgrounds of the characters involved and examines their feelings in a well drawn way.  The story eventually peaks around a conflict mainly concerning the two boys and a very strict secret that all three must guard against others within the school discovering.

I did enjoy this book.  I won’t say I loved it but I definitely liked it.  It was my first novel by Patrick Gale (although I do own Notes from an Exhibition but haven’t read it yet). I thought the ending was well done, if a little quick in the last few chapters, and it managed to tie up any loose ends that may have left lingering niggles.

The one thing that I’m not totally convinced about his Sophie’s apparent ease in mixing with families from a totally different social standing.  I did wonder if she might have felt a little more awkward at times?  Although, that being said, Sophie is a bit of an eccentric character so perhaps she wouldn’t have felt totally ill at ease?  You only have to look at her pleasure at being selected to be one of the school’s bell ringers – which apparently raises her to some new found level of respect – although quite why or how I was at a mystery to understand?

On the whole I would recommend this – I think it would make a definite holiday read.

Rating B

Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire

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