My book review of 'How to build a boat' by Elaine Feeney

by Elaine Feeney
How to build a boat
by Elaine Feeney

Jamie O'Neill lives in a village in west Ireland, with his father. His mother died in childbirth and Jamie is different from other children. As he starts secondary school, those differences are becoming more apparent and he quickly becomes a victim of bullying.

But Jamie comes to the attention of Tess, an additional needs teacher. She has her own struggles in her marriage, her family and her job. Where Jamie likes order and patterns, Tess's life is seems to be chaotic and impulsive. 

The two connect, though, and as Tess learns of Jamie's desire to create a Perpetual Motion Machine in order to connect with his late mother, she introduces him to the woodwork teacher who saves them all as together they start work on building a boat.

This is a beautiful book which is deceptively simple. There are passages where we step into Jamie's head, and sections which read almost like blank verse. But most of all it is a story of community and friendship, and about appreciating and celebrating difference. I want to read it all over again.

Review date: August 2023
Publication date: 20th April 2023