Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stand Before Your God

Opening as a very young boy suddenly is seemingly abandoned by his father in a house with a group of other boys and a housemaster, this memoir of growing up in English boys' schools is both sincere and heartwarming. The author, Paul Watkins, shares his experiences as a young American among the, mostly, young British boys in two schools, The Dragon School and, later, Eton. The memoir is filled with memories of friendships and fun. There are typical schoolboy activities, sometimes punctuated by the harsh reality of being an outsider in a system with very old, slowly changing, traditions; some of which were painful, reminding the reader that learning was more than Greek recitations. The schools became, for Paul, places where "You had to stand before your God and commit." Throughout the memoir Paul's relationship with his father is a motif that develops to a climax in his father's death; an event that leads to an epiphany for Paul that helps define his life and career as a writer. Written in a lucid prose with an easygoing style this is an excellent read; ultimately uplifting in its message.
Stand Before Your God: An American Schoolboy in England by Paul Watkins. Vintage Books, New York. 1995 (1993).

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