Friday, 17 August 2012

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket - John Boyne

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket – John Boyne

Pages: 278
Publisher: Doubleday (Random House)
Release Date: 2nd August 2012
Edition: UK hardback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Noah Barleywater Runs Away

There’s nothing unusual about the Brockets. Boring, respectable, and proud of it, they turn up their noses at anything strange or different. But from the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, he defies the laws of gravity – and floats. Desperate to please his parents, Barnaby  tries to keep his feet on the ground – but he just can’t do it!

One fateful day, the Brocket’s decide enough is enough. They never asked for a weird, abnormal floating child. Barnaby has to go.

Betrayed, frightened and alone, Barnaby floats into the path of a very special hot-air balloon – and so begins a magical journey around the world.

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is my first book by John Boyne and I was rather apprehensive. I’d heard countless good things about his brilliant and always sad novels, but I'm so glad I gave it a chance.

Right from the beginning of the novel, John Boyne celebrates being different. Being normal is boring and being different leads to adventures and unique experiences that painfully ‘normal’ people like Barnaby’s parents will never experience. I love how Boyne repeatedly empathises how one person’s normal isn’t necessarily another person’s normal. In this he really endorses individuality which is so important in a society where following the fashions and the rest of the crowd seems to be the only possibility.

Aside from the message, my favourite element of The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby is all of the fascinating people Barnaby meets on his travels around the world. But even so, each of these people has embraced their individuality and broken away from the people trying to restrict them and turn them into their version of normal. You have two old ladies who moved to Brazil to work on a cacao farm; a businessman’s son disinherited to become an artist and a badly scarred man becoming a famous journalist. Each person helps Barnaby along the way and teaches him a little bit about appreciating his floating.

I loved the way that this novel emulated one of my favourite childhood authors: Roald Dahl. The story is whimsical and bursting with magic realism just like Dahl’s novels and the writing is witty, humorous and so, so easy to read. There’s also the evil nature of lots of adults, especially parents, and the spattering of black and white ink illustrations that bring Barnaby and his adventures to life.

I loved The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby and I now realise that I’ll have to be brave and go back and read his first two children’s novel.



  1. Great review, Sophie. I also loved the people that Barnaby meets. Like you,I feel that I should go and read some more Boyne.

  2. This book sounds incredible, I really want to read it.

  3. Fantastic review! I adored The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, despite it making me cry :( Thanks for posting, you've made me want to read this even more.

  4. I loved this one so much and like you I really need to go back and read his other novels now… if theyre on the same scale as this they'll be amazing :)

  5. I loved this one too - I've got one of John's other stories on my shelf which I'm going to go back to now because of this book. Lovely review :)


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