Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Date of publication: 1970, Macmillan edition 1971
Inner cover blurb: 'George is a little man who lives inside Ben, but his is no still small voice. George speaks out loud and clear and his opinions quite frequently fail to coincide with Ben's. For instance about William. Ben thinks William is great. He admires everything he does, and William is not only four years older but conspicuously successful. George thinks William is a phoney.
The only other person who knows about George is Howard. Ben's kid brother, and he knows because, except for Ben, he is the only person George has ever spoken outloud to. George finds Howard a comfortable friend. They look at the world in the same way, except Howard can see it.
That was how it stood the year that Ben was twelve and Mr Berkowitz announced that the seniors in the Organic Chemistry class were going to be allowed to do research. This meant that William and Ben could no longer be lab partners. Ben was sore but George was glad. He felt Ben was getting too absorbed in science and he felt it would lead to no good. He was right, but it took some pretty sensational happenings and an alarming period of non-communication before they (and Howard) were on speaking terms again. In fact things might have made headlines and changed a lot of lives for the worse if it hadn't been for George.
Reading reveals: EL Konigsberg was a treasured American children's author, but (George) is one of her less-treasured books. The premise of a boy with another personality living inside him is great, but George never reveals himself to be that interesting. Then the plot gets bogged down in some tedium about talented high-school kids doing university-level research and some missing lab equipment that you can't imagine any young reader getting that excited about. Maddeningly, the story sparks into life when enquiries are made into the protagonist's mental health, and there's a timely LSD scene, but nothing leads anywhere of consequence. A frustrating book that has the capacity to be a classic, but just skims the surface of its material. Oh well. At least it's got pictures.