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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Borstal Boy (1958) by Brendan Behan

The 1990 movie of Borstal Boy did a little bit more than hint at gay relationships between the juvenile male prisoners.
Book Review
Borstal Boy (1958)
by Brendan Behan

   Borstal Boy is a straight forward prison memoir written by Brendan Behan, who, like the narrator of this book, was committed to 3 years in a "Borstal" or Juvenile Prison after being convicted of possessing bomb making materials shortly after arriving in England.  Behan was Irish, and he freely admits that he was, indeed, sent to England to manufacture and plant bombs to kill innocent people on behalf of the Irish Republican Armies.  While reading Borstal Boy, I couldn't but help on reflect on how attitudes towards terrorists have changed over the years.

  In fact, almost the entire book seems nearly otherworldly when I compare it to my knowledge of contemporary prison conditions.  Compared to today, the English Borstals seem idyllic, like a combination of a sleep away camp and reform school.   Behan doesn't seem upset at all at the narrator's situation.  He has an attitude of grace and good humor that no doubt went a long way towards endearing him towards the English reading public.

  There is little violence and almost no sex.  Homosexual relationships between prisoners are hinted at, but not explicitly discussed.  The jailers and guards are by in charge depicted sympathetically.  I'd almost describe Borstal Boy as "cute."

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