You thought your neighbours were bad? Wait till you meet the Oswalds. They're crass, cruel and seemingly untouchable. Until, that is, they go one step too far – and the results begin to tear an entire community apart.
Skunk Cunningham is an eleven-year-old girl in a coma. She has a loving dad, an absent mother and a brother who plays more X-Box than is good for him. She also has the neighbours from hell: the five Oswald girls and their thuggish father Bob, vicious bullies all of them, whose reign of terror extends unchallenged over their otherwise quiet suburban street.
And yet terrifying though they undoubtedly are, the stiletto-wearing, cider-swilling Oswald girls are also sexy – so when Saskia asks shy, virginal Rick Buckley for a ride in his new car, he can’t believe his luck. Too bad that Saskia can’t keep her big mouth shut. When, after a quick fumble, she broadcasts Rick’s deficiencies to anyone who will listen, it puts ideas into her younger sister’s silly head – ideas that will see Rick dragged off to prison, humiliated, and ultimately, in his father’s words, ‘broken’ by the experience.
From her hospital bed, Skunk guides us through the events that follow, as Saskia’s small act of thoughtlessness slowly spreads through the neighbourhood in a web of increasing violence. Skunk watches as her shabby, hardworking father finds love, only for her courageous, idealistic teacher to lose it; as poor ‘Broken’ Buckley descends into madness, while across the street her brother Jed makes his first adolescent forays into sex; and as her own gentle romance with soft-hearted, tough-talking Dillon struggles to survive against a backdrop that seamlessly combines the sublime and the ridiculous. As we inch ever closer to the mystery behind her coma, Skunk’s innocence becomes a beacon by which we navigate a world as comic as it is tragic, and as effortlessly engaging as it is ultimately uplifting, in this brilliant and utterly original debut novel.
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About the Author ~ Daniel Clay
Daniel Clay is thirty seven years old and married with no children. He lives in Hampshire in the UK.
Exclusive Amazon.co.uk Interview with Daniel Clay
What is Broken. A Novel about?
Part narrated by Skunk Cunningham, an eleven-year-old girl in a coma, Broken. A Novel tells the intertwining stories of three families who live in a suburban square in the south of England. The Oswalds – Bob and his five daughters – are the neighbors from hell. They lie, steal, cheat, bully and intimidate anyone unlucky enough to be anywhere near them, including Rick Buckley, a geeky but harmless nineteen-year-old boy who lives with his mum and dad on the other side of the square. Humiliated publicly by the Oswalds in the early stages of the novel, Rick descends into madness and becomes the Broken of the title. Skunk, her brother Jed and their new friend Dillon become fascinated with what’s happened to Broken which, in turn, leads to Skunk ending up in the coma from which she narrates the story.
What inspired you to write it?
My starting point were the family structures in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and how much society has changed in the eighty or so years since the events depicted in that novel took place. Once I had that starting point, I wanted to write about life as I saw it at the time I was writing – mad and cruel and random, yet always capable of surprising you, and always somehow worthwhile.
Who are your literary influences?
As a teenager, James Herbert and Stephen King were huge influences because they created characters I believed in and cared about. Since then, I’ve tended to love individual novels rather than particular authors. Orwell’s 1984 , Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest , Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time , and Kem Nunn’s Tapping The Source are all novels I’ve now read several times (and wish I had written).
If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?
Clive Barker’s Weaveworld . The same as the Harry Potter series, it has that knack of layering the fantastical over everyday life, but it’s darker and sexier and tinged with more horror as well. A magical read.
What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?
Write for the thrill of it and write for yourself. Try to surprise yourself. Try to shock yourself. Never try to write something that doesn’t excite you right from the outset. Never try to write what you think an editor or agent wants you to write. Think about how you can grab a reader’s attention and then not let them put your work down. Look at the writers who do this to you and compare their style to your style. Try to understand why they’re different. Try to do something about it. Read as widely as you can. Polish as hard as you can. And, most of all, have fun, enjoy yourself, challenge yourself, and never let the rejections stop you from writing.
Reviews for Broken. A Novel
We are not the only ones to love this book. Check out a selection of reviews below. As you can see a lot of the reviews have been written by our own Amazon customers. These are reviewers from our Amazon Vine programme. Scroll down to the customer review section to see all of the reviews submitted.
Bold, prescient, engaging, and oddly touching. Guardian
A stunning first book … I’d be amazed if it doesn't get short-listed at awards time. Murray, Amazon Vine top reviewer
Daniel Clay has managed to weave a tale that simultaneously highlights some of the more disturbing aspects of contemporary British society whilst capturing some of the sweet innocence of a child’s mind... gripping. H. Pierce, Amazon Vine top reviewer
Reminiscent of Angela's Ashes set in the present day – there is humour and warmth, and a surprisingly upbeat, satisfying ending. I think this is probably the best new fiction I have read in the last year. P. M. Fernandez, Amazon Vine top reviewer
This book grabbed me and I could not put it down… It will make you laugh, cry and gasp with horror. Kehs, Amazon Vine top reviewer
Beautifully written … I couldn't put the book down. It contains humour and is incredibly touching. I will certainly be looking out for Daniel Clay’s next book. Recommended to all. SM, Amazon Vine top reviewerReview:
"Daniel Clay's debut novel is remarkably controlled and disciplined as it depicts those who spiral out of control." (The Independent)
"There are many good things here: it's bold, prescient, engaging and oddly touching." (The Guardian)
"Colin Moody's chilling reading evokes the cruelties of the bullying Oswald family and the neighborhood and school they victimize. We see through the eyes of 11-year-old Skunk, who lies comatose in the hospital. Moody maximizes the tension as we wonder what led to her situation and then view a horrific string of events that begin as Skunk's teenage neighbor, 'Broken' Buckley, is tormented by the five Oswald sisters and beaten by their terrible deadbeat father. Skunk faces harassment in her class and questions her place, rights, and dreams in the world. You listen appalled, but addicted, held as captive to the audio as Skunk, her parents, teachers, and friends are to the Oswalds." (AudioFile Magazine)
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Book Description Harper Press London, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition... SIGNED on the title page, this was published in a tiny hardback edition of only 350 copies. A brilliant and ultimately uplifting debut novel. This is an unread new copy. Language: eng Language: eng 0.0 Language: eng 0.0 Language: eng 0.0. Signed by Author(s). Bookseller Inventory # ABE-1114246909