2000 Whitbread Children's Book of the Year
Published to acclaim in the United Kingdom, this stunning historical novel delves into a hidden side of eighteenth-century England: the world of infanticide and child slavery. Otis Gardiner, the Coram man, makes a vicious living disposing of the unwanted children and illegitimate offspring of distraught young women, rich and poor. Meshak is Otis's oppressed, simpleminded son, who finally discovers an infant he considers special enough to risk saving out of the hundreds who have succumbed to his father's brutality. The infant's father is Alexander Ashbrook, a brilliant young aristocrat disinherited by his family for his devotion to a forbidden career, who is astonishingly unaware that he even has a son, much less that he has abandoned him.
Around this trio and a host of other characters swirls Jamila Gavin's carefully orchestrated plot, in this disturbing, ultimately uplifting novel about sons and fathers, abuse and abandonment, treachery and devotion.
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Jamila Gavin has had numerous books for children and young adults published in Britain. Coram Boy was her United States debut. She lives in Gloucestershire, England.
Gr 7-9-Mystery, romance, horror, and adventure overlap in this story set in England in 1741. It begins with the brutal work of the "Coram man," a shady character who deals in unwanted children, whom he either abandons, buries, or sells into slavery. Accompanying this evil man is his son, Meshak, who appears to be slow-witted, but who has witnessed the horrifying nature of his father's work. One night, the boy rescues a baby born to Melissa, whom Meshak calls "his angel," and spirits the infant away to the Coram Hospital, a home for abandoned children. A separate story line involves teenaged Alexander, the baby's aristocratic father who is unaware of his son's existence, and his friend Thomas, raised in poverty. Alexander has pursued a career in music, which causes him to be disinherited from his family's fortune. Readers also follow the story of Melissa and Alexander's son, Aaron, who at age eight leaves the orphanage and is apprenticed to a musician, and his black friend, Toby, who is unknowingly apprenticed to the evil Coram man, now disguised as a wealthy pillar of society. Only when Aaron discovers his own musical abilities do the narratives begin to mesh. The author skillfully weaves the various threads together, and the characters are well drawn. While the obscure subject matter and the relatively slow beginning might deter some readers, those who stick with the compelling story will be rewarded with story lines that come together neatly and build suspense until the end.
Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0374413746
Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0374413746
Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110374413746