THE CHAIN THAT BINDS THE EARTH : Sean O’Conaill
This book is an uplifting morality tale about covetousness, and also about reasoned self-belief and courage in face of opposition.
Four children in entry-year of secondary school, from markedly different social and family backgrounds, each separately begin, from their own personal experience and perception, to recognise and identify covetousness — which they call ‘copy-wanting’ — as a pervasive and corrosive influence throughout society, contributing to many of its ills, including specifically bullying, needless acquisitiveness and crime.
The four become friends and try jointly to raise awareness of this issue within their school; but as they begin to win support and goodwill among both staff and students, they encounter doubt, scorn and hostility in various quarters, most notably and strongly from a senior and influential authority-figure, the school’s reactionary Head of Religion and putative next Headmaster. Threatened with extreme consequences if they persist in voicing their arguments at large in an important school debate, they resolutely stand by their beliefs and, conquering their misgivings, step up and use the debate to broadcast their concern.
The unfolding story, told in a natural, simple style, engages the reader’s attention throughout, and the personality, character and speech of each of the dramatis personae —students, parents and staff alike — are portrayed believably, as is the unusual integrity of the four so-young protagonists.
If this book was intended as a primer for teen-age youngsters on coping with opposition, scorn and threat, and on self-belief, it succeeds through its balanced and interesting narrative, and not least because it is gratifyingly free of any overt didacticism: it clarifies, but does not instruct. One would like to think that schools and parents alike would want to encourage its reading. The parents themselves would probably enjoy it, too!
M R Cook
Ealing 19th November 2015