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Book Review: "Earth" by John Boyne

5/5 - John Boyne has done it again...

By Annie KapurPublished about a month ago 4 min read

“I couldn’t allow myself to return to the island. Not because I was afraid to admit failure but because I didn’t want to grow old with the eternal mud beneath my fingernails, dirt that would remain there stubbornly, no matter how hard I tried to wash it away.”

- Earth by John Boyne

John Boyne is an author I am always excited to read. His works often cover difficult topics and have some of the best descriptions of being I have ever read. If you have been paying attention to my reviews, you would know that John Boyne very rarely gets lower than five out of five for me and because of his generous output, I am able to keep reading great books happily, knowing that there is always something new coming from him. His book Earth is his latest novel, the one I have been waiting for ever since he released his novel Water. And like Water, Earth deals with difficult topics and has a backstory that gets the reader seriously thinking about things. John Boyne manages to craft yet another character-centric secrecy-shrouded story whilst also writing in a compelling way, keeping the reader interested, sympathising and feeling every step of the way.

Evan is a man on trial. He is on trial for sexual assault and there is a lot of evidence around the fact. As a medium profile footballer, Evan is in the spotlight often and yet, he has never wanted to be a footballer. He wanted to be a painter and back when he was younger, his father berated him for being gay. As we explore Evan's character, we also explore what led him to the trial.

Evan's dream of being a painter is squashed smaller and smaller as his father imposes his own dream upon his son - football. The sound of not living on his father's farm on a tiny island being controlled by his backward-thinking parents was pretty good but honestly, the story of him going around and getting into arguments with people is actually pretty sad. People don't take to him easily even though he is a perfectly honest human being. However, I think it is worth noting that there could be some culture clashes that we're probably not aware of.

Another thing about this book's view of homosexuality is that not only does it explore the homophobia of Evan's parents, but it also explores the homophobia within football culture. Huge rampant amounts of it, even more than his parents give him. His parents may show a disappointment towards his lifestyle choices littered with insults, his career keeps him closeted out of the fear of abuse. John Boyne's incredible writing colours the dichotomies of this novel and all the ironies about progressive thinking we share between western and nonwestern cultures. Honestly, it is really beautifully written into the story.

From: West End Lane Books

Like with his novel Water, Boyne deals with silent witness and bystander syndrome in the most harrowing way possible: projecting the several possibilities and then working with what would be the most likely thing to happen. When Vanessa left the island in Water, we were met with a story as to what happened, travelling back and forth and looking at the angles of devastation. When Evan leaves the island in Earth, we are met with the same devastation. A difficult read and a harrowing subject matter - the reader is left to piece together the past and present stories.

I enjoyed the part where the priest from Water appears at the trial in Earth because not only is it a good reference for a set of books that are supposed to be connected in some way, but the conversation Vanessa has with him in Water is very revealing - so the reader is expectant when Evan starts talking to him. It is a really perfect situation for this book because of the grand emotions displayed through tone and action. It is something John Boyne is very good at doing.

The series of 'Elements' is set on an island off the west coast of Ireland and deals with some very harrowing subject matters. Earth is one of those that presents us with a situation that hangs people in the balance, whereas Water deals more with regret, anguish and hopelessness and how to confront it. Both stories deal directly with bystander syndrome and what it means when we lack the action to do what is necessary. It is not always because we are bad through and through and though you may not agree with what they did and what part they played in these horrific actions, you cannot help but respect them with some degree of compassion.

Note to the Reader:

If you want to know more about John Boyne's novels, then you can take a look at these...

A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom

Mutiny on the Bounty


Beneath the Earth


I have pretty much read all of John Boyne's books and you will probably find other reviews of books by him if you sift through my profile. He's a fantastic author - so I highly recommend his work.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

Secondary English Teacher & Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (2)

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  • Allwyn Roman Waghelaabout a month ago

    You’re an amazing book critic and I think it’s time for you to launch your own book👍

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Thanks for another great review!

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