I hadn't expected to like Skippy Dies. Literary novels haven't attracted my interest for some time now---since, say, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and several works by Cormac McCarthy, all read and loved a long time ago. Frankly, many literary tomes can seem tedious or pompous or both. I relish strange new worlds with unfamiliar landscapes such as those written by China Miéville and more recently, the mind-blowing The Quantum Thief.
That said, how in the world did Paul Murray pull me into Seabrook College for Boys with a starring cast of pubescent critters? Raging hormones are predicable and single-minded, so why bother with clumsy sexual fixations when there are so many more interesting tales to read? Well, Paul Murray described a world with those alien creatures that was fascinating in variety and complexity such as exists in each human heart, which is, after all, albeit familiar, still in need of exploration and explanation.
A plethora of topics unfold, such as how love can be fueled by illusions that stem from neediness, which often has little to do with reality. And then there's string theory! Interestingly, I saw the characters as worlds unto themselves, but woven together such that pulling one small thread such as the diminutive Skippy can wreck and heal the lives of children and adults alike. --All this and more, laughter and pain found in beautiful, profound writing that won me over rather early.
The writing was magnificent in places and the overall structure of the plot and subplots were expertly handled. I found myself reading 'just one more chapter' well into the night. And to think, all that marvel takes place in a boys school---as good a center of the universe as any, I now admit.