The Anatomy School

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The Anatomy School

Cape/Blackstaff Press/Vintage(2001) 

This is the story of the growing up of Martin Brennan: a troubled boy in troubled times, a boy who knows all the questions but none of the answers. This is Belfast in the late sixties. Before he can become an adult, Martin must unravel the sacred and contradictory mysteries of religion, science and sex; he must learn the value of friendship; but most of all he must pass his exams - at any cost.

A book that celebrates the desire to speak and the need to say nothing, this novel moves from the enforced silence of Martin's Catholic school retreat, through the hilarious tea-and-biscuits repartee of his eccentric elders to the awkward with and loose profanity of his two friends - the charismatic Kavanagh and the subversive Blaise Foley. An absorbing, tense and often very funny novel which takes Martin from the initiations of youth to the devoutly wished consummation of the flesh. It is a remarkable re-creation of the high anxieties and deep joys of learning to find a place in the world.


The Anatomy School is one of the best coming of age novels I have ever read………. Sheer perfection.

Books Ireland – November  2001

Hilarious, poignant, barbed and brilliant …this novel turns high anxieties and pain into well wrought fiction. MacLaverty has a wider vision, greater depth and technical craft than J. D. Salinger, a more subtle style than William Golding and a moral imagination to match that of James Joyce.

Keith Garebian - The Globe and Mail (Toronto)20th October 2001


James Joyce invented the modern novel when he wrote A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man. J.D.Salinger wrote perhaps the definitive coming-of-age yarn, featuring Holden Caufield in The Catcher in the Rye. Mordecai Richler and Alice Munro gave voice to their own country’scoming of age when they wrote The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz and Lives of Girls And Women. They gave the tried and true structure fresh life by making it relevant to a particular place and time. Into this tradition comes Bernard MacLaverty’s The Anatomy School.

Deborah Dundas – The Toronto Star – 30th September 2001