This Mortal Boy

Kidman, Fiona

  26 Reviews

The hope of a better life, that's what Irishman Albert Black was seeking when he stepped on New Zealand shores, not the prospect of the gallows after a casual altercation at an Auckland milk bar. It's 1955 and unfortunately for young 'Paddy', New Zealand has the moral bit between its teeth, and the death penalty still on its books.

Compelling and convincing, this is both a compassionate recounting of a young man's short life and the thoughtful examination of a dark episode in New Zealand history.



MAST 003
Unanimously loved this book. Well-written, and raised strong feelings about capital punishment and the justice system. Led to an interesting discussion. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Fiona Kidman for a well-written account of an unpleasant time in N.Z's history. Her persistence in trying to make contact with Albert's family and her determination to have his murder verdict reclassified will, hopefully, right the wrongs in this case. There is much in the story for New Zealanders to learn about cultural and religious diversity. Even the green colour on the book cover was significant.
Great discussion! Well researched and written book. Excellent melding of fact and fiction. Group had a wide ranging discussion about morality, justice, prejudice, classism, and other issues raised by this book.
Unanimous acclamation from our club for this book. We all felt that it was a stunningly gripping story, told with non-judgemental candour, exploring along the way the politics, the social norms, and the anxieties of N.Z. in the 1950s. Dame Fiona skilfully layers this narrative with background stories of the protagonist's Irish family and those of the jurors who wind up sealing his fate. Her development of Albert's feelings, his choices and his relationships with his peers round out this poignant tale. We thought it was an excellent read.
AUCK 105
Magnificently written, by Fiona Kidman ( of course). Confronting, but a must read and it certainly generated a lot of discussion.
MAST 005
Such a sad and distressing crime and injustice that occurred in N.Z. in the 1950s. This book was beautifully constructed and written with compassion - we had a great discussion and the group learned about a legal system and laws that were no longer fit for purpose!
Captivating read, the whole group recommends this book. Engaging, well-written, keeps you 'in the moment' at all times.
CHCH 423
This book was a big hit with our group. Very favorable comments in terms of content and style. We couldn't help observing how easy it is to wind up on the wrong side of too many drinks, a moment of anger...
TAUR 010
Really good discussion from this book.
AUCK 014
Brilliantly written, thought-provoking, surprisingly compelling narrative even though we all knew what happened in the end. The characters were superbly drawn with the customary empathy typical of Fiona Kidman's work. It was too upsetting for some in the group with one having to stop...and another not starting. So a wide range of responses. That said, we rated it highly. There was a great deal of discussion, with some of us remembering the debates of the time and the socio-political context (given our average age).
Beautifully written from all the characters' perspectives, and covers this tense topic comprehensively. One of us stopped reading at a certain point so as not to read the final scenes. A great social commentary on being pawns in someone else's game.
GISB 003
Five stars for 'This Mortal Boy', a first ever that we can remember for our group. Most of us were teenagers in the 50s, and the names and times were familiar to us. We found it incredibly sad, and were horrified by the attitudes of the time as portrayed in the story, and also by the grinding poverty of the Black family and their community.
Kidman has captured a snapshot of NZ society in the 1950's, its conservative, right wing, white male dominated attitudes. As well as the biases against youth and the discrimination against immigrants especially the Irish. This is a sad and sensitively written story that we all felt compelled to read to the end despite knowing the outcome. Our discussion centred on jury bullying and how Albert might have been treated in today's courtroom had he been charged with manslaughter.
ASHB 016
We all enjoyed this book, and although we were in Lockdown, everyone did a review via email. Some were surprised that this even happened in NZ, all felt sorry for his mother and the way she was treated. Interesting how he is was treated in the community because he was Irish. Goes to show how circumstances can change so quickly - great story and as per all Fiona Kidman's books, well written. Would recommend this as a really good story that is sure to create great discussion.
Provoked a lot of discussion on growing up in NZ at that period, and how much we were aware or unaware of the issues covered in the book. We were horrified to be reminded of the fact that orphans [and sometimes not orphans ] were sent out here and to Australia and Canada after the war.
All of the group enjoyed the novel, and felt Kidman kept the tension to the end. Many found it quite haunting, and were alarmed at the death sentence still in effect as late as 1954. Way behind other countries.
WELL 046
The group found this a very readable and convincing story, based on fact, some imagining of events, interwoven with the social history of the 1950s. The reinstatement of the death penalty over that time and the flawed trial that resulted in the execution of this young immigrant, were valuable lessons from a somewhat overlooked period of New Zealand's history. A very worthwhile read.
WELL 079
This book generated lively discussion. Many of us were alive (but young!) in the 1950s and remember some of the personalities in the political circles, and were shocked at some of the attitudes. Well-written, and kept our interest even though we knew the eventual outcome.
Many were saddened by the story; but loved the way it was written!
CHCH 479
A reality check, and a tragic story about NZ at that time.
CHCH 268
Sad, and a well-written portrait of an interesting period in NZ history.
All our members read this book and although some were in tears in parts, we all thought it was beautifully & honestly written about a time in New Zealands social history that we are not proud of! As the majority of us were born in the 1940s it was like being in a time warp for us, growing up in the 50s. The book stimulated us to a great discussion and we hope never to return to those judgemental and narrow minded times.
NEWP 014
Well-written, thought provoking book. Lots of discussion.
WELL 094
Very well received. Lots to think and talk about.
AUCK 375
Not all in the group read the book, as in the current climate we wanted something more uplifting. Those that did were moved by the account. We doubted that Henry's evidence would have made any difference in view of the climate at the time.
We found it an interesting read but a bit too depressing - especially during Covid! Good insight into the political and social climate for early immigration into New Zealand.