in the spirit of great schoolboy novels (epistolaries) comes van de ruit's "spud". i'm not sure why i put off reading this so long. i kept putting it up on display desperately willing someone to sign it out as i thought it looked like a great book, and tragically no one ever seemed to want to take it home. so i did. this is the story of john (spud) milton, 14year old scholarship winner to a prestigious all boys boarding school in south africa. the year is 1990, the end of apartheid, and this political event creates the backdrop to the story. the school is populated with the usual cast of bizarre teachers, and sadistic schoolboys. however, just because the characters are typecast doesn't mean they aren't realistically or sympathetically drawn.
throughout reading this images of "a separate peace", "the catcher in the rye" and "the secret diary of adrian mole, aged 13 3/4" kept swimming through my head. mostly adrian mole though. something about spud's diary style reminds me of mr. mole, and van de ruit even references the book once. i believe that spud decides that reading the "diary" of a spotty 14 year old boy who drinks too much lucozade written by a woman named sue townsend is stupid, but he can't help but admit that he did find the book rather funny (and adrian mole is, in that painful funny way that is particular to british comedies). diaries, schoolboys, bildungsromans (that's a fancy german way of saying "coming of age novel"), if you like these sorts of things then give "spud" a chance.