Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Shadowing the Carnegie Award

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner 

This is a book that I had heard and read much about over the last few months and yet I was still not prepared for its impact. This is a bleak and shocking tale and in Standish Treadwell Sally Gardner has created a teenage character with a strong and unique voice.

The story is based upon a "what if" scenario of nightmares, being set in an alternative dystopian past in which 1950s England is a totalitarian state and those who disagree with the authorities routinely disappear. For those unfortunates who are considered different or to have "impurities" life is grim in the extreme. Violence is commonplace and descriptions of this are sometimes graphic. In the middle of this horror we meet Standish and his best friend Hector. Standish struggles at school being dyslexic and has a quirky view of the world. It is Standish, I think, who gives this book its heart. I warmed to him easily and there is something very moving about his relationships with his Grandfather and in particular with Hector. Despite the chilling subject matter there is a theme of love and a commitment to standing up for what you believe to be right running through the book.

Maggot Moon would be a wonderful trigger for discussion about a wide variety of topics for although it would be easy to dismiss this as a horror story there are some parts of the world where people live in fear under brutal regimes. It conveys excellently the bravery of an individual standing up for his beliefs in the face of not only hostility but extreme danger too.

This is a highly original book which it is difficult to assign to any particular genre although at times it reminded me of 1984. The extremely short chapters and the writing style in clear language give the impression of an easy read but it is certainly not an easy read in content. The matter of fact descriptions of extreme violence and the language used mean that this is very much a book for teen
readers rather than younger children.

I can now understand the media attention and accolades that this book has received and would imagine that this has a very good chance of winning the Carnegie too. In all honesty I cannot say that it is a story that I would read with pleasure or for fun but nonetheless I am glad that I have read this stunning book. 


  1. Like you, I think it has a very good chance. The relationships Standish has with significant others in his life are captured so well. I think the ending is one of the most beautiful I have read in a long time. It also took me by surprise (and with a lot of tears).

  2. The last few pages are utterly gripping and left me feeling emotionally drained. I think this is such a clever but disturbing book. The other aspect I find staggering is that her range of subject matter and style can be so different. Her latest series for younger children, Wings & Co is terrific too. A very impressive author.