Published: 2011, Black Dog Books
Date Finished: 22nd August 2011
Rating: 3.5 Stars ***
Recommended: Karen [Ocdofbooks]
Hamish Graham is intelligent, disciplined, resourceful and fearless, and scorns all weakness. His heroes include Charles Upham, Alexander the Great and Te Rauparaha - all men of action. But he is also a fourteen-year-old with an anger problem and a disturbing past, and these have landed him in a series of boys' homes for violent and troubled young offenders.
The gripping series of events following his arrival at New Horizons culminates in a desperate rescue mission on a mountain that has already claimed the lives of two young soldiers
Denis has a very unique writing style that had me enthralled from the beginning. It was like nothing I have read before. I was fascinated with Hamish the main character who, throughout the novel repeatedly shows his callous and manipulative nature, and seems to be highly intelligent; or is he? I was compelled to get to know him. I wanted to get inside his head and he even began making me ask questions about the nature of psychology and what was brutal and violent and what was survival. I haven’t read a novel that has challenged me in the way Denis does with Violence 101.
Throughout the novel which is made up of third-perspective points of view and first person through the Journal and Diary entries written by Hamish, we learn not only about his past and the people around him [staff, boys in the home], but his family, the people he has affected and the effects he causes via his violent actions that he justifies with nature and history of his heroes. Heroes, like Alexander the Great, whom we get to know about through his Journal entries in great detail.
I thought this style of writing was intense and at times a little hard to grasp, but always persuasive and exciting.
I’m not at all a fan of war, and I try and steer clear or war history even though I do like to learn about it to a certain degree. Sometimes the oversaturation of war knowledge and talk of violence and war troubled me, but as it was part of Hamish’s character fundamentals I managed to wade through the parts I disliked and learned a thing or too while doing it. Even if you aren’t too keen on the war or violence I believe it is well worth the read.
What made this book readable in every aspect was the fresh look on a different culture as well, not too far away from Australia in nearby New Zealand. Even just the fresh insights into the country’s history was enough to make me want to look for more and know more and I really enjoyed the different setting in which the novel takes place. Apart from the language sometimes used in the novel it makes for great reading.
The ending left a lot to be desired for. It was rushed and to be unrealistic and true to the character. I didn't understand how two characters could be suffering while another was fine in conditions that were critical. The ending ruined the suspense created throughout the novel and for that I have to give it a lower rating. Still for a short, often intense and thought provoking read it is worth it.