ShortBookandScribes #PublicationDay #BookReview – Earth by John Boyne

Earth by John Boyne is published today by Doubleday in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to the publishers for the proof copy.

From million-copy-bestselling author John Boyne, an inescapably gritty story about one young man whose direction in life takes a vastly different turn than what he expected.

It’s the tabloid sensation of the year: two well-known footballers standing in the dock, charged with sexual assault, a series of vile text messages pointing towards their guilt.

As the trial unfolds, Evan Keogh reflects on the events that have led him to this moment. Since leaving his island home, his life has been a lie on many levels. He’s a talented footballer who wanted to be an artist. A gay man in a sport that rejects diversity. A defendant whose knowledge of what took place on that fateful night threatens more than just his freedom or career.

The jury will deliver a verdict but, before they do, Evan must judge for himself whether the man he has become is the man he wanted to be.

Earth is the second in the Elements quartet of novellas by John Boyne. Evan Keogh appeared in Water, the first book, as a minor character but here he takes centre stage as a young footballer accused of assisting a serious sexual assault carried out by his teammate, Robbie. Throughout the story we follow the trial but in alternate chapters we also see the trajectory of Evan’s life after he escaped his troubled family life on the small island of his birth. It’s not pretty!

It’s not difficult to feel some level of sympathy for Evan and his difficult upbringing, but by the same token I found him hard to like. Life has given him sharp edges to protect his delicate inner and it now feels like he is incapable of feeling anything much at all. Boyne invites the reader to walk the fine line between nature and nurture, of culpability versus abdication of responsibility, morality against self-preservation. As always, this incredibly talented author has written a compelling and incredibly powerful account of the murky depths of the human psyche which has left me thinking about the characters afterwards.

John Boyne is one of my all-time favourite writers and I enjoyed Earth very much, despite the thorny subject matter. The writing is thought-provoking, disturbing but accurate, and it’s produced to great effect to challenge the reader. I’m looking forward to Fire next, which takes a minor character from this book and tells their story.

John Boyne is the author of fifteen novels for adults, six for younger readers, and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet, and opera. His many international bestsellers include The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. He has won four Irish Book Awards, including Author of the Year in 2022, along with a host of other international literary prizes. His novels are published in sixty languages.

Twitter: @JohnBoyneBooks
Instagram: @JohnBoyneAuthor

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