Penny for the Guy Mr Olivier is a fast-paced story of a kid growing up in London in the sixties. The main character, Mikey Cleary is a comic creation who deserves a series. He is sassy and he has a way with words - in cockney, Anglo-Irish or posh - that rivals MacGyver's with gadgets.
Mikey tries to keep his worlds separate: home, school, church, his gang, his Saturday job, his connections with the Old Vic and Peter O'Toole's Hamlet, even his weirdly-named dentists. But events conspire against him, and soon he's juggling plates in the air as he prepares for the money-making day of the year: Guy Fawkes Day.
His two big problems are his relation with his dad - a war hero who won't talk about the War - and girls - or rather his worrying lack of interest in them.
I whizzed through the book yesterday and this afternoon guessing some of the cockney slang - duff him up? - from the context. The pace of the book is fast - at times a little too fast and the reader wants to linger a little more over some scenes, especially the thoughtful, emotional ones. The book reads more like a screenplay in some parts.
Anyone interested in the sixties will love the period detail - shilling for the meter, police chasing street bookies who take bets on the races. London is a central character - Waterloo Station, Big Ben, and of course the Old Vic, where many scenes with O'Toole, Olivier, John Gielgud and Mikey are set. The humor is ever-present, the characters are strong and believable.
Acting, especially acting Hamlet, is a theme that runs through the book, and the ending, with all the major characters gathered for the final dress rehearsal of the play, is both funny and life-affirming.
The author uses the dangerous first person point-of-view, which often fails, but in Mikey he has a character strong enough to pull it off. The book could and should have included more narrative, and the cockney that makes the book authentic had me stumbling sometimes, but the incredibly believable and witty dialogue makes up for everything. This reader finished the book in two sessions: it made me laugh; it made me cry. I thoroughly recommend Penny for the Guy Mr Olivier. I look forward to at least a radio play.
Causes Mike Hogan Supports