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Dodie Katague

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Book Review for Cloyne Court
Wednesday, February 24, 2010  4:51:00 PM

by Dodie Katague

Cloyne Court, by Dodie Katague
Reviewed by Celia Hayes

Billed as a kind of real-life `Animal House', this books is more of a nostalgic memoir-novel about living in an all-gender-and-orientation cooperative residential house in Berkley, after the flower-power generation had moved on. Derek Marsdon has just turned 18, commuting from his family home and wrestling with incomprehensible academic courses.

Spurred by an impulse and the advice of an odd and witchy old woman he sees on the train going home one day, he moves into a college residence - and thereby takes the first steps onto the necessary path of becoming something a little more than a teenager: this is not so much an account of four years of carefree pranks, debauchery and substance abuse with a little academic enrichment squeezed in between - but a rambling account of how a young man first encounters the larger world, that world outside the shelter of a family, establishing an identity of our own, something beyond just being a son or a daughter, an extension of our parents. This is where we first encounter straight-on such things as the pitfalls of sexuality and sexual attraction, of individual responsibility, of coping with a bureaucracy, the randomness of fate, coping with people very, very different from ourselves, where we first cope with love and unrequited devotion, junk furniture with a strange history, tasty adult beverages . . . and being caught up in a student demonstration when all we really needed to do was turn in some necessary paperwork. Not to mention that strange camaraderie that arises when you spend a great deal of time with other individuals in an odd environment, where everyone knows the rituals and the place, as well as the importance of seemingly inconsequential things.

Derek wanders through those undergraduate years, feeling some of the pains and disappointments - but always with a steady and observant eye, and a whole heart. The author has a fond and unerring eye, and no little sympathy for those years - which now and again, may have been rather embarrassing for the adults who emerged from the antics of their college years, especially if they now have near-adult children of their own. There is something about those first years which keeps a hold on us for the rest of our adult lives, though; sometimes wince-making, and sometimes brushed with the golden highlights of nostalgia, something which the writer has caught very well.

Celia Hayes is an author. Her books may be found at -
Celia also writes reviews for PODBRAM and her reviews may be found here -
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Cloyne Court

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