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Home Uncategorized Out of the Frying Pan

Out of the Frying Pan

Tony Flynn
Dangerous Games, by James Butler, Little Island, 224 pp, €10, ISBN: 978-1910411919 “It’s like we’re lying in a giant green frying pan.” So goes the opening line of James Butler’s urban young adult novel, spoken by Rory, the closest confidant to the novel’s main character, Kevin, who has just turned fourteen years old. Rory has no idea how right he is. Kevin and Rory are indeed in a frying pan, and just outside of the pan is the fire. The opening page goes on to relate that most loved slice of macabre science, that if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and heat it up gradually, the frog will sit in it and simply boil to death. The theme of Butler’s novel is effectively laid out. Kevin begins the novel in a pot of water which will get hotter and hotter as the story develops, the question being whether he will be consumed by the heat or be able to escape from the fire. Escape proves difficult, given how close to home the threat to Kevin is. On the one hand is his volatile older brother, Adam, introduced in the novel as having just stolen a car with his mates. Then there is Kevin’s Uncle Davey, recently released from prison and looking to ingratiate himself into the household, which has been left fatherless since the death of Kevin’s father ten years before the novel begins. Given the chaos surrounding him, it is perhaps no surprise that Kevin should find solace in the game of chess, a game based on strict rules and order. Chess does not reward luck, as do most games, but instead requires great skill and forethought. One of the most poignant moments in the book comes when Kevin’s mother asks him to explain the rules to her, and this he does with increasing enthusiasm, lovingly and articulately describing the place and purpose of each piece:  …the bravest of the pawns with a bit of luck can one day become queen but nobody, no matter what they do, can ever become king. This is a telling line, given how much emphasis the novel places on the idea of becoming someone else. Indeed there is a repeated allusion to the idea of doubles, which suggests an almost dreamlike quality beneath the gritty veneer of Butler’s story. Davey, it is noted, bears a striking resemblance to…



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