An edgy, affecting, and darkly funny debut novel — narrated by Skunk, an eleven-year-old girl in a coma — that explores innocence and its betrayal as powerfully and unforgettably as do Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Lovely Bones
Skunk Cunningham’s world is a small one, populated by her family; her teachers and schoolmates; and her neighbours, the quiet Buckley family and the five terrifying Oswald girls and their thug of a father, Bob.
When Saskia Oswald, with her stilettos and tight pants, asks shy Rick Buckley for a ride in his new car, he can’t believe his luck. But after a quick fumble, Saskia broadcasts Rick’s deficiencies to anyone who will listen, including her younger sisters. This act of thoughtless cruelty will see Rick dragged off by the police, humiliated, and “broken,” — and, in a tragic chain of events, will leave Skunk hanging on to her young life by a thread.
From her hospital bed, Skunk shows us her hapless father finding love, and her idealistic favourite teacher losing it; “Broken” Buckley spiralling into madness; and the Oswald clan coming apart at the seams. As we inch ever closer to the mystery behind her coma, Skunk’s innocence becomes a beacon by which we navigate a world as comic as it is tragic, and as engaging as it is finally uplifting.
Broken introduces Daniel Clay as a brilliant and utterly original voice in international fiction.
English writer Clay's disjointed debut traces the story of Skunk Cunningham, an 11-year-old girl living with her father, brother and au pair. One day, Skunk watches as local thug Bob Oswald beats teenager Rick Buckley. Bob, whose five daughters go to school with Skunk, is one-dimensionally horrible and has no qualms about bullying kids or teachers as he protects his daughters. Skunk and crew, meanwhile, spend their days in school steering clear of the Oswald girls, who are as psycho as their father. Between bouts of violence, things in the British suburb are quiet, and Rick becomes a virtual prisoner in his home, only to later emerge as a "broken" and violent beast. The novel is nearly plotless and overflows with generalized nastiness, and the grim proceedings, while initially discomforting, don't do anything except pile on and become banal.