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Reviews of The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond

The Tightrope Walkers

by David Almond

The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond X
The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2016, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Book Summary

In a raw and beautifully crafted bildungsroman, David Almond reveals the rich inner world of a boy teetering on the edge of manhood.

A gentle visionary coming of age in the shadow of the shipyards of northern England, Dominic Hall is torn between extremes. On the one hand, he craves the freedom he feels when he steals away with the eccentric girl artist next door, Holly Stroud - his first and abiding love - to balance above the earth on a makeshift tightrope. With Holly, Dom dreams of a life different in every way from his shipbuilder dad's, a life fashioned of words and images and story. On the other hand, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to the brutal charms of Vincent McAlinden, a complex bully who awakens something wild and reckless and killing in Dom.

In a raw and beautifully crafted bildungsroman, David Almond reveals the rich inner world of a boy teetering on the edge of manhood, a boy so curious and open to impulse that we fear for him and question his balance - and ultimately exult in his triumphs.

I was born in a hovel on the banks of the Tyne, as so many of us were back then. It was a three-room dilapidated upstairs flat, in the same terraced row where Dad had been born, and just upriver from Simpson's Shipyard. Rats slunk under the floorboards, mice scuttled in the walls. The bath hung on a nail on the wall, the toilet was at the foot of steep steps outside. The river slopped against the banks and stank when the tide was low. There was the groan of engines and cranes from the yard, the din of riveters and caulkers. Sirens blared at the start and end of shifts. Gulls screamed, children laughed, dogs barked, parents yelled.

All hackneyed, all true.

By the time I remember anything clear, the slums were gone and we'd moved uphill into our pebbledashed estate built on a wilderness just above town.

It's said we travelled there like refugees. We came from crum-bling terraces with tiny yards, from riverside shacks, from tumble-down cottages next to long-abandoned mines...

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Reviews

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I truly loved this book, loved Dom and Holly and even Dom’s dad who is so baffled that a son of his can write with such skill. But better than merely loving it, this is an especially good book; a well-written, great story, with fantastic characterization and important themes. I miss Dom already...continued

Full Review (804 words)

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(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Starred Review. Wild and reckless, heartbreaking and hopeful - this elegy on life is not to be missed.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. The award-winning Almond poetically plumbs the depths of his 1950s and '60s childhood to explore themes of violence, war, God, creativity, beauty, death, art, the soul, our animal selves, whether we ever grow up or can really know each other…in short, life.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Almond's characteristic penetrating writing and finely drawn characters are on full display in a story more fully grounded in a specific and important historical moment than anything he has published heretofore.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. A tour de force. ... The novel is by turns reminiscent of classic bildungsromans such as the Billy Elliott film, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Stephen King's IT, yet it retains a distinctive heart and voice of its own. ... An absolute must-have.

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Beyond the Book

A Funambulist By Any Other Name

Maria SpelteriniIt seems that as long as there have been human beings and rope there has been the urge to string that rope between two posts or trees or buildings or things of any sturdy sort and walk - heel to toe - across the span.

For the ancient Greeks it held the appeal of balance offset by danger and, of course, the physical challenge. Though tightrope walking was not considered a competitive sport (a la Olympics-worthy), it was nonetheless respected as a special skill. According to a website dedicated to tightrope walker Jean François Gravelet, the Greeks were so enamored of tightrope walking that they created a special prize, "The Thaumatron," which could be won by tightrope walkers and "anyone who shows people something amazing, out of ...

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