Simon Lelic – Rupture


We live in a world of the Columbine High School shootings, the Red Lake High School shootings and the Virginia Tech shootings. Something pushes people to pull the trigger on innocent people, and hard as we may try, the horror that ensues just cannot be justified. In Simon Lelic’s debut novel, Rupture, the shooter, Mr. Samuel Szajkowski, was a teacher at a London public school. At assembly one morning, he shot three students and one teacher, before turning the gun on himself.

The novel reads as a fast paced mystery novel, despite the perpetrator of the crime already being dead. Inspector Lucia May is in charge of what seems to be a fairly straightforward case, and her superior wants a to-the-point report, which will close the case for good. However, Lucia starts looking into the “why” of things, as opposed to immediately closing the case as her boss wanted her to, which annoys him to no end.

It’s a book about bullying, physical and verbal, and the unfairness of it all; how some people get away scott-free, whereas some people feel compelled to act in a rash manner. No one said life’s fair, but when you’re pushed, how far will you go?

It’s undoubtedly an ambitious novel, with the testimonies of fifteen people interleaved with May’s account of how the investigation is progressing (as well her own life, and contemplations). The voices of the fifteen people sound real – ranging from fellow teachers to students to parents, and the reader feels as though they have been given the whole story – not just one side of it.

However, and here’s the BIG however, some things about this book really annoyed me. For some reason, people in this country have decided that saying “should of” instead of “should have” and “would of” instead of “would have” is acceptable. Every time I see something like that, I wince. When the students’ accounts are peppered with these, it’s almost (but not quite) acceptable. However, when teachers and parents use the same, it just sounds wrong! The author really should of done better with that.

Second, and this might stem from my doubts about twenty-first century technology in books – the author manages to bring in bullying via text messages (and in text speak, no less) as well as mentioning Facebook. The latter seems to be more “name-dropping” than anything else, and it just makes the novel feel so current.

Finally, some parts of this book seem unbelievable. I studied in an all-girls school, which had uniforms, daily inspection and severe disciplinary actions for any small wrong-doing. I’ve been asked to stand outside the classroom for looking at my watch during Chemistry, so, you get the picture. I just can’t imagine a school where bullying, taunting and being undisciplined is overlooked, and the students and teachers responsible aren’t reprimanded at all.

Oh, and while the below quote has absolutely nothing to do with the story, I could so relate, and thought I’d share it.

The books filled the shelves the landlord had left for her, as well as her IKEA bookcase. She liked to let her eyes gaze upon the spines. She liked being able to identify a book without being close enough to read its title. The battered corners, the creases on the cover – they were a mark of familiarity. They were a comfort.

Have you read any books on school shootings? What did you make of them? Do you think anything can justify it?

15 Responses to “Simon Lelic – Rupture”

  1. 1 Aarti

    Gosh, this is a heavy subject to tackle using textspeak… I don’t know if I approve of that method, but I guess if he’s writing for a high school audience, maybe he thinks he can reach them better using textspeak and talking about Facebook? I don’t know…

    I agree about “should of” instead of “should have”!! Drives me nuts.

    • Sorry, slight bit of crossed wires – the text speak was isolated to one chapter, where a kid was actually being bullied by texts, and the cop was seeing those texts on this phone.

      The should’ve-should of thing is annoying!!

  2. 3 Karen

    I have read We Need To Talk About Kevin and Wally Lamb’s latest book which deals with the Columbine school shootings. I thought they were both fantastic books but the subject matter is very tough going for me.

    • Is the Wally Lamb The Hour I First Believed? I have it on my shelf at the moment. I’ve read Kevin and thought it was fantastically written – felt so sorry for the poor mum.

  3. I’m not fussy about new technology in books, but I’m definitely with you about using ‘should of’ as some sort of ‘slang’ in books. I mean, it’s not right, for one, and plainly it’s used this way only to emphasise on how it’s pronounced. But then, how often do we actually pronounce “should have” fully anyway? I would have thought it’s understandable, that it’s something we’ll just know when we read it. No need to spell out the way people pronounce things, because if we did that for all the words that we shorten naturally, we’d have a whole bagful of weird looking words that just don’t do any book justice. But then again, that’s my chip. It just annoys me no end.

    I haven’t read the book, but I think I’d like to give it a shot if I get the chance, if only because I think the subject is something I’d be interested to learn more about.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I think, for me, that was one of the things about the book that irked me, and actually took away from an otherwise fantastic story.

      I think it’s a book worth reading, and I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

  4. 7 farmlanebooks

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on all your points. I think you are lucky to have gone to a school without bullying – I think bullying is a problem in almost all schools. I went to two different comprehensive schools and both had a problem with bullying. The teachers had enough problems trying to keep order themselves to have time to worry about bullying between pupils. Rupture gave a realistic view of normal school activity in my opinion.

    I don’t think real people say “should have” either, so writing it in a book wouldn’t be a reflection of how normal people speak.

    Finally, children nowadays use mobile phones and facebook all the time. It isn’t name dropping, just describing the things they use all the time.

    Sorry you had problems with this book – it is my favourite read of 2010 so far.

    • I think the “bullying” we had at school was just banter, not actual “bullying,” so I guess I am lucky. Fear and discipline was instilled into us as though there was no tomorrow – it was weird! Like I said, I’m probably just seeing it from my point of view, but, I can’t imagine students getting away with things like that without getting a three day suspension (or a much harsher punishment).

      As for not saying “should have” – I don’t know. I tend to say “should have done” a fair bit! Other than “should of,” think there was also the case of using “em” without the single quote. Sorry, I’m a pedant of the worst kind, and I notice things like that straight away! I mean, I’m one of those people who notices “it’s” v. “its” in emails when I’m not even looking for mistakes, so…

      The mobile phones/text speak bit added to the story, and I completely agree that it’s part and parcel of most people’s (and children’s) lives. Thought Facebook was name-dropping, simply because it added nothing to the story, and was just a stray reference by Lucia, saying she’d heard of it but didn’t have an account.

      I thought it was a fantastic story, so thank you for the review, which actually made me go out and get this book. While I won’t call it a 2010 favourite, I am glad I read it, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

  5. 9 gaskella

    I loved this book and think it had important things to say about bullying. I too went to an all girls school and there was bullying there – often quite subtle, but it was there alright. Regarding technology and bullying – it happens!

    The whole should of/should have thing is a problem. My other half picked me up for saying should of the other month. What I actually said was “SHOULD ‘ VE” eliding the should have together, which with my South London overtones comes out should of. I think that’s actually what most grown ups say, but younger ones mishear and will perpetuate as they don’t learn grammar as we did these days!

    I loved the structure of interleaving Lucia’s story with the statements/testimonies. It very cleverly introduced all those little pieces of information needed to piece what happened together.

    • Suddenly, my childhood feels very sheltered. :)

      Yep, I know what you mean about “should’ve” sounding like “should of”… but now-a-days, people actually do say “should of” and they distinctly do say the two different words. It’s very weird.

      The structure was clever, and I loved how it gave all sides of the story – from people who disliked Samuel, to people who felt sorry for him.

  6. 11 jo

    I really want to read this. I’m intrigued by the idea of the story coming together through different testimonies.
    I think modern technology turning up in books is odd, but it is such a huge part of kids lives, and perhaps wouldn’t be so realistic if it wasn’t there?

    • It’s well worth a read – will look out for your thoughts.

      I agree – I guess I’m finding it stranger and stranger reading books set in the 21st century, which is worrying, considering I’m not even 25 yet!

  7. Like Karen, I have also read We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I think its strength lies in not explaining or justifying. (Though that would depend on how you read it.) I have to admit that, despite being an intriguing book, it left me with no desire to pursue the subject further.

    I require good grammar in books. With the exception of Cormac McCarthy, who may do as he chooses without invoking my censure! ‘Of’ instead of ‘have’ would annoy me immensely, for all the reasons listed above.

    Finally, I hate that kind of technology in novels! I can’t justify it, I just do!

    • I thought Kevin was a brilliant book, and Shriver does an amazing job of displaying the emotions. It’s a horribly tough subject though.

      You’re going to kill me for this, but my first experience with McCarthy went: Can someone please introduce this guy to commas, or some kind of punctuation! The first five pages of The Road was a nightmare. After that though, I wouldn’t have read the book any other way, and actually loved his style of writing!

      Fair enough – I know exactly what you mean, for I feel the same way.

  8. I haven’t read any books on school shooting, but I want to read that one We need to Talk about Kevin I think its called – im pretty sure thats about a shooting. this sounds really interesting.

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