“The beginning blew me away –I loved the voice, the style, the details, the insights, the commentary on the human condition without being preachy, the cinematic quality, the capturing of childhood memory and viewpoint, the pace, the characters, the humour, the poignancy, the tough reality – so much!
“At times I felt I was reading a savage Harry Potter or a new Laura Solomon, a contemporary Steinbeck, Salinger or William Golding. The humour, the exploration of young male friendship and adolescence, the evocation of abandoned children are all well done. The writing is amazing…. “ Perhaps the best ever rejection letter from the fiction editor of an international top five publishing house….
“The Fell flows like Kerouac’s On the Road and bites like Kesy’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
From the opening chapters that provide a deep escape such as in Proust’s Finding Time Again is turns dark suddenly and explores the realms of crime and punishment so doggedly forged by Dostoyevsky.
It a beautifully written emotional rollercoaster ride of a read that will remain in your memory and make you wish you could take a tour of the old school, where the plot unfolds, where there’s sure to be a strong whiff of John Rebhorn about the Headmasters Office: not so much as Scent of a Woman as The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner in this novel however. It’s about the now and forces within rather than external constraints.
When all’s said and done, it is a wonderfully honest hard-hitter that will take some time to fully digest.” Five star review: Waterstones UK
The Fell: shortlisted for NZ Book Lovers Award: best fiction 2020: ‘An unexpected and excellent read; fast paced and surprising, sometime brutal, sometimes gripping, always darkly humorous. An unnamed narrator in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, gives the novel a constant sense of intrigue. A brutal boy’s school for difficult kids is the setting, and as you would expect there are moments of fun, but also sadness. Tricks will be played, people will leave and some will even die. Our protagonist will learn how to survive and even thrive. A twenty-first century Lord of the Flies.’ https://www.nzbooklovers.co.nz/awards
The Fell is an indie coming of age novel written by Robert Jenkins and published by RedDoor Press. Odds are you probably haven’t heard of this book. It was published by a relatively small publishing house, written by a relatively unknown author, and it features a relatively questionable and unstable narrator. And yet, I consider this book to be one of the best hidden gems in contemporary coming-of-age fiction novels. This intro will probably be longer than usual, so bear with me. Growing up surrounded by books, I was often faced with the daunting question of what my favourite one was, to which I always answered The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger as if by default. That book had remained through many years my most underlined and annotated book. Yes, I annotate passages and phrases that stand out to me and I know it’s ironic of me to ask (considering the title of this website) but please don’t judge me. I realise I’m probably in the minority when saying this, but the number one thing that makes me fall in love with a book is the writing style and how poetic the prose is, something which I thought The Catcher in the Rye had mastered completely. So it’s quite an understatement to say that I was surprised to find that a random debut novel debunked it from that secure number one spot. There is not a single chapter in my copy of The Fell that has been left unmarked, and I had to resist the urge of underlining every other sentence; it’s that beautiful. I find immense comfort in knowing I can open this book on any random page, start reading, and feel engulfed by the familiar story. This comfort extends from the story itself to the actual book in its physical form. Looking over to my bookshelf and seeing that familiar green spine is very reassuring and it brings me a warm feeling I can’t quite describe. Malu Rocha https://judgemeplease.myportfolio.com/the-fell-robert-jenkins
Sunday Times Best Selling Author writing on Authors Electric calls The Fell “a Masterpiece” …. read the blog below and please share it!
The Guardian UK: All Nighters and Sideways Reads; Books of The Year:
The bonding and rebelliousness of the urban tribe, the love and loss, the dislocation and abandonment but ultimately the triumph and sheer delight in chaos. It saved my life …
“What an unexpected and excellent read; enjoyable, fast paced and gripping, sometimes brutal and sometimes gentle, always darkly humorous.
This is a book about teenagers written for an adult audience. It is narrated in the first person and we never learn the name of the central character, nor the time or place in which the novel is set. There are some clues, but I don’t think they are important because the story is brought alive by your own experiences and you will have places that you recall that can fit this picture of a city called Cutter. You will supply your own times and locations. The story begins when our narrator is a young boy. In the long summer holiday he goes with his father to a Lido, where the father is a lifeguard and a hero to the young boy. Family life at home, where there is an older sister who inhabits her copy of Anne of Green Gables, and days at the Lido are beautifully painted and have the quality of childhood memories.
You feel the closeness of the characters and begin to understand them. All this is blown apart when the sister is arrested, falsely accused of shoplifting, but lashes out with a nail file and wounds a policeman. When she is sent to prison, family life implodes and we follow the journey of the narrator who is sent to a remote, spartan boys’ school where difficult cases are gathered up to learn the harshness of discipline. What follows are years of growing up without the love of parents, where boys learn to take anything they need from the people around them. Learning to survive, and in the narrator’s case thrive, in these hostile surroundings. A fellowship and camaraderie grows between a small group of boys. They have each other’s backs and this allows them to gain new skills and develop friendships.
This life is wonderfully drawn, with moments of fun and humour, but also sadness. People leave, people die and tricks are played. It is all realistic, narrated in the voice of a teenager, with all the emotions and reasoning of that teenager, and that makes it authentic. Staff at the school hardly figure in the narrative, and are mainly objects of hate or ridicule. One teacher stands out, Mister Solomon Sesay, who has also had a rough life in which he too has suffered and been picked on. The narrator describes the impact he has: “I actually learned things from him without even realising it, which is a rare thing in any school day, and sometimes I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I had learned but I could feel a kind of waking up in my head like little electric pulses firing off and bits of my brain lighting up and trying to make sense of his lesson because some part of my mind kind of grasped it and the rest was flopping around trying to get a handle on it.”
One of the boys at The Fell has marionettes which are dressed in dinner suits or silk pyjamas. When one comes to sleep in the narrator’s room, their owner talks about them: “ ‘They don’t sleep, not softly like us, not peacefully. There is no calm repose. See… their faces are tense, screwed up, frowning like they’re holding back a scream… a long terrible scream… But they don’t scream… they take our screams and swallow them up.’ I wished straight off he hadn’t said a word because now I had a shiver and he smiled and the marionette turned its head to look at me, white faced with a red spot on each cheek, and nodded. ‘Don’t be afraid. They are our friends. ’ ”
Towards the end of the book our narrator turns a corner, and there is a sense that some schoolwork actually gets done. I loved the way this paragraph sums this up: “I even started to walk more softly and smile at adults more often and some days I even did school work and said thank you to teachers so they were shocked and told me I was welcome. I tried to use more words from my dictionary and I surprised them teachers with the vocabulary I used in my schoolbooks and my use of correct grammar and punctuation too, and punctuation has nothing to do with being on time. If you don’t believe me you can look it up.”
The story has been compared to Lord of the Flies and I would agree that there are parallels with the wild behavior of the boys from The Fell. There is violence, death and even attempted murder. Boys make and drink alcohol and grow drugs. Things don’t go well for a number of the characters. They don’t get away with crimes where it might be possible to see mitigating circumstances. But some of this darkness is offset by more tender and humane moments, where there is friendship and warmth. There is a love story too, where the narrator falls for Melody Grace. She has a dark past, but also a warm heart and it is hard not to enjoy the role she plays as siren and teacher to the young man. She is a shining light, a hope for a better future.I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book for its wonderful mix of hard and brutal, soft and humorous. It feels modern yet it is set in an indeterminate time and location. A brilliant book which deserves a wide audience”.
Reviewer: Marcus Hobson NZbooklovers. co.nz
“The Fell is tagged as a debut novel by Robert Jenkins and RedDoor Publishing, but the quality of its craftwork suggests otherwise. I would like to know more about the author but his bio tells us little. The Fell reads like a classic of literary fiction, a rite of passage that stands testing against any previous work. I suspect, in time, if it finds its feet, it will rank alongside the likes of The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies. Actually, for readers today, this will eclipse them. They are vanilla in comparison. To be fair, in comparison Fight Club is tame and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is set in a normal and well-run institution.
The Fell reeks of lived experience and is in places harsh, brutal and disturbing, but also poetic, subtle, tender and clever. I suspect for many readers it will be almost too subtle, an entire life-changing event is distilled into a single line. “I let him have me all”, is all we hear about the boy narrator’s first experience of homosexuality. A line referencing a hilariously inappropriate folk song catches you unawares until it percolates and then stuns with how very appropriate it really is. His view of old people in a park is heartbreakingly on the money.
Sometimes confusion, honesty and raw experience are encapsulated in a single word and the simplicity of language used by the young character is employed perfectly. The boys mind is more taken with the mysteries of life and the universe than things a more mature reader might consider grave and important. The boy misses what’s urgent, and his ability to assess the reality of his situation is, well, adolescent… The Fell is kids explaining the universe to kids, wonders and terrors both. But the grave and important things come back in spades to startle and destroy. Perhaps it’s exactly how children learn the big stuff. Educators take note.
The Fell is many layered and romantic, comedic, challenging. It will make you question what you think you know about boys and young men. It will reassure young people who live in conflicted space, and it should be required reading for women who want to know their males better.
I laughed out loud in places and found myself unexpectedly emotional a paragraph later. The stream of consciousness (and at times unconsciousness!) is paced and balanced in such a way you need to remind yourself to breathe and insert your own pauses. The exuberant prose, almost lyrical at times, is mesmerizing. It won’t be for everyone, and it might not be a big hit in airport bookshops, however I suspect this will be a cult classic and will enhance your standing in edgier places if you’re seen packing a copy.
This is a novel full of heroes; children emotionally abandoned and discarded, gathered together against the world, finding love, family and brotherhood where they can. Making plans and deciphering the world without “significant adult supervision”. They are drunken, drug abusing, violent, funny, foul, thieving, promiscuous, bi-sexual (anything-sexual), and rabidly anti-authority… all of it underage, and these are the good guys!
The Fell is something, and I don’t think we have had this kind of something for a long time. It’s wonderful in the fullest sense of the word. It feels like it’s 1975 and Punk is arriving all over again. So buckle in, read it, rejoice in it, and buy a couple of copies… the fun police are sure to call and burn one of them!” John Tell: Scoop Review of Books.
“ I didn’t just like this book I really loved it.! It captured the bond between young men born into adversity so well. What I liked about the story was that neither the sex nor the emotion were overstated and you were left with a sense of authenticity and rawness. The peripheral activities which were not mentioned in the story were not necessary because the story was about enduring love and acceptance amongst boys who found themselves on the outside of life without the normal supports of family. The basic need to be held physically ,emotionally and metaphorically underpins this story and it begins with the boy’s relationship with his Father. A father he idolises and loves. When that is taken way and he is sent to Feallan house he very soon develops supportive relationships with other older boys who care for and ‘ hold’ him. This happens with all the boys..they recognise in each other the common need and drop usual judgements of one another and rather to embrace each other in all senses of the word.
The style of writing has a narrow focal point which leaves many details blurred and undefined, like the name and age of the boy. In this case it works well and keeps the reader’s focus where it should be. It gives insight into why trouble often seeds and takes root in these boys. I think this story should be studied at high school. For me this book is more profound than “Catcher in the Rye”. The author has effectively brought common themes into todays world and this relevance holds well for our understanding of dysfunctional behaviour in the youth of today. ” Goodreads.com
non illegitimus carborundum – don’t let the bastards get you down “This was a book that took me back to feelings of my teenage years (which yes, okay, were not that long ago) but specifically, it gave me a reminiscent feel of a more relatable version of catcher in the rye (with a main character you don’t want to throttle!)
The Fell is a coming of age novel set in an undisclosed location with a nameless main character. We follow him from his young years, where he spent his time worshipping his father and the lido, to his teenage years, where rebellion and something fiery settled deep in his chest. This story shows the main character grow and form friendships and relationships that alter the way he sees the world.
We start off with our protagonist around probably ten or eleven (though we never learn his age) as he follows his father to the lido, a community swimming pool where he is a lifeguard. We see the tranquil life he leads, a starry-eyed youth who wants to live up to his fathers’ prestige. But darkness quickly settles into this novel like it does in real life when someone hangs themselves, and his family starts to break down. They said the devil was on the whole neighbourhood that summer.
Not long after, our protagonist is sent to Feallan House, a boarding school for trouble makers with teachers horrendous enough to make your skin shake. This is where the story really kicks off, as the protagonist quickly makes friends, and starts to find his way around the new world being set out for him. This is the point where an important question is posed, who are the villains? Is it the kid who got shoved into Feallan house for a misdemeanour, or the teacher who shows a little too much interest in a child? What about the Cuban who owns the shop down the road that the cops just love to drive by? or the cops themselves? It bends your ideas of what is right and wrong until you no longer know who the real villains are. An interesting part of this novel is the fact that the protagonist does not always have the best role models. Leon, a boy he looks up to, doesn’t always care for the rules, or ‘Cuban Jesus’ who might just toe the line of the law. But he sees both the good and the bad in everyone, and more often than not, tucks the bad away and in a childlike manner, only sees the good in those who he loves. But the real ‘villains’ in this novel were interesting, teachers and cops that felt like they had been drawn into the story from the real world. The issues they put forth were real ones we see in the world, and the way that the main character and his friends reacted, fit teenage boys to a T. Death close up is a cold and heartless hard bastard.
Previously I mentioned that this reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, and it really does. Perhaps not in the text, characters or events. But in the undertone, deep in the stories bones, it feels like it’s made of the same kind of metal. It’s a gritty coming of age story that you don’t really understand on your first read, and the more you think about it, the more you come to love it. A really intriguing parallel between the two novels is how they both look at the fakeness of adulthood. They show a young character seeing the truth hidden in the adult world, exposing how adults don’t always know everything, and more often than not, can be the monsters of the world. I walked out of this intrigued beyond belief. I had found a character that I wanted to despise in the main character for the things he thought and the violence he sought, but he felt far too human, and relatable in ways that made you sympathise with him. I would definitely recommend this as a book to get boys interested in reading, or for any one who is after a story that will sit with you for a long time. If you’re a fan of CATCHER IN THE RYE, LORD OF THE FLIES or THE OUTSIDERS, then pick this up.” Goodreads.com
This book should be on every creative writing curriculum . This is a fabulous book and should be on every creative writing curriculum. Jenkins takes the reader deep inside the troubled head of the narrator and creates an entirely absorbing world. The writing itself is incredibly clever, funny, sad, disturbing and uplifting. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys immersive reading. Goodreads.com (Andrew Crofts, Sunday Times Best selling Author).
This is an extraordinary novel, a bildungsroman set for the most part in a boarding school reminiscent of Gormenghast, where an unnamed narrator makes his way in a community of violent, abandoned teenaged boys. The Fell is short for Feallan House, situated in the town of Cutter. Cutter includes a few elements of the author’s hometown of Nelson but is more reminiscent of literary Valparaiso or Brest! The narrator is sent to The Fell after an awful event in his unnamed hometown, where his sister, Lilly, is sent to jail.
The narrator is haunted by these early life events, has lovely memories of life with his lifeguard-father and hears Lilly talking to him through the soundwaves of a smuggled radio. He makes friends with a shambly group of misfits in The Fell, including a ghost and animated marionettes – and the bulk of the novel is made up of their testosterone banter, their alcohol and drug-fuelled nights, their survival-type exploits, their first loves, and their loneliness: “there is no hell worse than being ignored and shunned and lonely.”
“I think maybe we were lacking sufficient and significant adult supervision at a critical juncture in our development” says one of the narrator’s close friends, Johnny – and a truer thing was never spoken. Most of the adults in The Fell are corrupt and mean, as seen though the eyes of a troubled boy. There are some exceptions, but they are the minorities in both senses of the word: “They were really nice people, as criminals and gangsters and illegal immigrants usually are.” There is one ‘good’ teacher, an African, Mister Solomon Sesay, “on the edge of being mad”, who tries to temper the narrator’s leaning towards violence.
The narrator and his gang want to break Lilly out of jail, just one of their many plans to be heroes, but how do you go about being a hero? In one planning session with Johnny: “… we didn’t know what to write or what makes a real-life full-time professional hero so we gave up and made a list of people to kill instead.” And The Fell doesn’t shy away from violence, or the ease with which boyhood fantasies can seep into reality. The novel has a Lord of the flies feel about it at times.
There are moments of beauty as well, the intensity of a young boy’s first love, in the narrator’s case with Melody Grace, a fabulous character full of energy and wisdom. The fireworks of youth that knows it is finite: “For one week the trees blaze and light up the world and then it’s over and things change and this is like youth and love and life.” And the moment when Johnny talks of listening to the dying heartbeat of stags when he has just shot them: “It’s like God dies with end of a heartbeat.”
The alternate time/place feel of The Fell works well, you don’t know where/when you are, which makes you long for a different reality for the boys. And they do too, one going off to the “Foreign Legion”, Melody Grace leaving for “Cadiz”, the narrator’s friend Majid inviting him to Arabia where “… if by Allah’s will we are not to be holy warriors, we can drink tea. Peppermint tea.” It is as though their dreams are the only things they have to look forward to – apart from Johnny, who is white and from wealth.
The Fell is sad and tragic and makes you want the world to be different, even though the world described is extreme and unreal – the resonances are all too real. Unrealised potential, misunderstood possibilities, uneven playing fields of opportunity … And you despair for the narrator: “… it seemed like all my life I was made of sand and took the shape of everyone I got blown up against but I had no shape of my own and however hard I clung to that shape it always went away and the winds came and I was nothing again …” I highly recommend this book. https://alysontheblog.com/2019/09/21/the-fell-by-robert-jenkins-2019/
“The Fell” is Feallan House, a residential school for boys with troubled backgrounds… where the inmates do indeed seem to be running the asylum. But don’t expect linear narration. There are intense bondings with the people who cross his path, most of them other boys; there is virtuosic wordplay; there are some paragraphs — filled with verbal trickery — that run for several screens on my Kindle; but at least these latter do contain punctuation. (Speaking of punctuation, the author points out that it has nothing to do with being on time.)
“It’s like no other ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) I’ve read so far. I recommend that you read this book, and I urge you to open your mind up as wide as possible — or, maybe if you’re a very destination-oriented reader, give it a pass. But know that you’ll be missing out. “ Goodreads.com
“Robert Jenkins potent story of love, loss and power told through the lens of an unnamed teenage boy encourages the reader to think critically about the power relationships between adults and young people.
“On the boys journey to manhood Robert invites the reader to observe the protagonists widening experience of love as the story shifts from family to friends to early romantic love.
“At times graphic and brutal, but also full of love, warmth, humour and hope this gripping story engages every emotion.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this story and can’t wait for Robert’s next book. I hope it becomes part of a series.
“This book is a rare gem.” Goodreads.com
“I hope this book finds its audience. It’s such an oddball mix of elements, perhaps Ulysses meets Lord of the Flies. At base, it is commentary on the world as seen by an unnamed boy of an indeterminate age in an unspecified time and place.” Goodreads.com
“Once you allow yourself to be absorbed by the pages it is a riveting and intoxicating ride.” Goodreads.com
“The writing, word play and characters are all so excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Fell, there was a lot I could relate too having once been a boarder too, it’s a truly unique experience for a young person, where the relationships you forge are everything. I look forward to hearing more from this author.” Goodreads.com
“The story is written with a unique voice, and there is a love and care shown for the characters that quickly makes you care just as much yourself. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments and the use of language is really beautiful.” Amazon reviewer
“From the first line of this book I was drawn into a world and a voice that I could not walk away from. This novel is a masterpiece to be discovered. What would seem to be a story about a boy, torn from his world and those he loves, is so much more. I have read many novels in my years, and this author is one of those rare gems that you look at in awe once discovered. It was akin to picking up a modern day Steinbeck, filled with characters and beauty and horror that you find yourself loving. This is by no means an easy read, as far as it will make you question all your socially acceptable beliefs and morals. What is right and wrong? Who are the bullies and the righteous? How important is the bonding for young men and all of us? It is filled with narrative comedy that made me smile when maybe I should not be, as society would prefer me horrified! And within it we have an unreliable narrator, battling to get through. What is astonishing is that it is so beautiful. Line after line I had to go back and re-read again, just for the perfection of the authors descriptions and use of language. I found myself going from laughing out loud to tears, and then to shock, and still I loved the characters more and more. It is written like a vast, colorful canvas, a totally cinematic experience, as though you are watching a film….yet you are reading. This book is a journey , but there are so many levels to it, that it will one day be discussed in universities and schools, unpicked piece by piece. I am so grateful that the author has had the courage to write a book of such depth and controversy and beauty. That he has mastered his craft, so rare in these days of the instant fix. Every descriptive word and line is beautifully placed. His dialogue is real and natural. I am left hanging for what comes next, and what else he may offer over the years. I understand it is not for everyone, just as many classics have never been read by so many, but everyone should pick this up. It may offend some, but what work of meaning does not? And then the question of what offends? This is not just another novel, to fill time and then to be forgotten, but one that haunts you after you finish. You find you are still carrying the characters with you in your head weeks later, as though they have become real. This is rare, not just an outstanding book but a novelist to stand the test of time. ” Goodreads.com
“at times it is a Lord of the Flies type descent into social breakdown, at others it’s a buddy story, a coming of age tale of a gang of mismatched friends in the vein of Stand By Me. So, best not to categorise it, just go with the flow. There are ghosts, a boy meets girl then loses girl story, violence and abuse, friendship and bravery. The writing is what makes this, ultimately, a compelling read. Jenkins writes with a lightness of touch, a poetic sensibility that, although unlikely coming from a teenager, still moves and captures you. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I still remain on the fence about the book as a whole, but for its sheer brilliance of writing it deserves to be read.” Goodreads.com
“simply stunning. I was hooked instantly and I personally loved the authors unique style when telling the story. It is always riskier when buying a book from a newer author however I encourage everyone to give this book a go. “ Amazon reviewer