Review Blog

Nov 02 2009

Confessions of a liar, thief and failed sex god by Bill Condon

cover image

Woolshed Press, 2009. ISBN 9781741664546.
(Ages 14+) Bill Condon has set this coming of age story in the 1960s. Australia is involved in the Vietnam War and the country is still deeply conservative. Neil is in his final year at a Christian Brothers school in Sydney, a year that will see many changes for this boy on the cusp of manhood.
Neil's life revolves around his family; Dad, Mum and brother Kevin, and his best friend Troy, who is always up for a dare and is afraid of nothing. Some of the certainties of life that Neil has known begin to crumble. Troy shows he's just as vulnerable as anyone else when he steals a wallet and allows Zom (short for Zombie), a quiet unassuming classmate take the blame. Zom shows a very different side to his character when he declares his innocence and punches the much feared Brother Michael right in the middle of the quad.
Zom is not only expelled from school but ejected from home as well and has to live in a small flat with his sister Sylvia. Neil, feels no great friendship for Zom, but thinks he's been treated very harshly because of Troy's actions. Zom promises to get back at Brother Michael while Neil finds Sylvia very attractive.
Things get worse at school with the arrival of a new lay teacher, Delaine, who introduces himself on the first day by giving the whole class six cuts with the strap just to show who's boss. But Troy is singled out for special treatment and cries when he goes back to his seat. This wouldn't have been so bad if Neil hadn't seen his tears and loss of face. On the way home just as they've said goodbye Troy is hit by a car and killed. Neil lies to the police and says Troy was his usual happy self.
It seems that it's the beginning of a series of lies to his family, Zom and Sylvia. When he sees Sylvia to thank her for saving him from drowning (even though it was Zom that saved him) things go further than either of them had planned. He also discovers that Zom is going to act on his plan to seek revenge on Brother Michael. Neil tries to talk him out of it and even persuades Zom that he'll try and sort it out with Brother Michael. But there is no change in either the attitude of Zom or Brother Michael.
The results aren't those expected but there are resolutions. The problems of the protagonist seem enormous and earth shattering, but life does move on. Things are not as bad as they seem. Conlon has written a book that will appeal to a wide audience, but particularly boys of middle school age. It's an easy read and a compulsive one at that.
Mark Knight

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