WHEN THE BOYS CAME OUT TO PLAY by Ray Salisbury

WHEN THE BOYS CAME OUT TO PLAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Salisbury continues the story of Simon Wilson, a pre-school tot in Close the Door Behind You (1983); here Simon, only child of tense unhappy parents in a working-class English village just after WW Ii, is about to start school at five. . . and close yet another door on sanctuary and lamp-lit love. Simon's primary bond of love is to Grandad, from whose house he is wrenched away when father George comes home from the war. He is loved--but largely ignored or talked at--by his parents: nerve-wracked mother Ina; and father George--doggedly, painfully clinging to a lost youth, obsessed with his Saturday football. Furthermore, Simon's teachers are punishing and indifferent. But through his peers (the novel ends when Simon is eight) and through the lowering promise of violence (""I'II get you after school!""), Simon does learn the adult-echoing hierarchies, those evasions and pugnacious assertions. . . which gradually pull him away from a Grandad past. Simon is initiated into a chilly new world: boyhood stealing, tricky alliances and bribery, even the welcome notoriety of taking in-school corporal punishment. After Simon's stint as incense bearer at church (only hilarious in an adult view), ""Grandad walked on ahead of me, as if he were walking away from me. . . . He looked different, smaller. Would he wait for me?"" Worse yet, beloved, fading Grandad must know that Simon, who doesn't dare not take the dare from the school bully, is the culprit responsible for a broken stained-glass window. And though Simon finds adult caring and camaraderie from ward-mates during a hospital stay (for a circumcision), Grandad never visits. . . .Again Salisbury reconstructs the claustrophobic, ritualistic speech of caste-locked adults, the vulnerable scrabbling for distinction in changing times--and he touchingly plumbs the delicate, sad currents of childhood's end: small-scale, narrowly focused, but gently affecting.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Andre Deutsch--dist. by David & Charles