FAG by Jonathan Hill

Set in a boarding school for boys in the late 1930s the book examines the complex relationships that exist in this microcosmic world. 

The themes are bullying, prejudice, homophobia and personal isolation which are explored through an increasingly perturbing but totally convincing plot. I think the book could also be read as an allegory for emergent fascism and its resonances are dark and disturbing.

Nevertheless, the book is very compelling and once started I found it very difficult to stop reading it. It is a challenging and thought provoking book that is very well written and deals with complex issues with sensitivity and honesty.

Although the content is bleak it is counterpointed with good descriptive writing which softens the harsh realities of the storyline and prevents the book from becoming too depressive.

I've already read most of Jonathan Hill's previous books and was looking forward to reading this his debut novel. He has already demonstrated his abilities as a writer in the 'Maureen' novellas and short story collections. This book goes in a completely different direction but it shares with some of the earlier writing an empathy with the outsider that is explored to a much greater depth here. The author does not shy away from the physical intimacies which are an integral part of the story but this aspect of the writing is not voyeuristic, exploitative or sensationalised.

The final development of the novel is unexpected and poignant with the hint of the possibility of a better future. The author's personal appraisal in the final pages of the book reminds us that complacency in relation to prejudice of all kinds is too easy and too dangerous.

Well deserving of five stars and highly recommended.

Read more about FAG, the fantastic new novel from Jonathan Hill at