After the first few pages, this ebook reminded me of the movie “A Christmas Story,” which was based on a book by Jean Shepherd titled “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.” That story is also set in 1950s America and is also told from the perspective of a young boy, in that case one obsessed with getting a BB gun for Christmas. I’m sure you’ve seen the movie. It’s on TV almost continuously during the holidays. I only bring it up as a way to describe what A King in a Court of Fools is like. It’s like that movie.
In this ebook, young Harry Ryan has no overriding obsession like the kid in the movie although we learn he would like to ride shotgun in the pink Corvette he and his siblings find in the woods one day. But the pink Corvette is not so much a plot device of this book as it is part of the setting. There really isn’t much of a plot and no deep insights or big ideas. It is not that kind of book. It is a snapshot in time, a picture of suburban life in the mid to late 1950s seen through the eyes of Harry Ryan, the youngest child (about 7) in a large Catholic family living near Pittsburgh.
The reason this book earns 5 stars (from me anyway) is because the author provides a picture of 1950s America clearer and crisper than if it were made on Kodachrome film. The details he provides, from common phrases used, to the descriptions of various brands and products that serve as props, accurately fill out the setting and help highlight differences from today. What the characters see, how they talk, and how they look at things are vividly told, allowing readers of a certain age to recall the feeling of what it was like to be a kid at the time.
Those who grew up later than the 1950’s or early 1960’s may find it harder to relate to this story. It may be too far removed from the world they know but the descriptions are so well done, I think they may be able to as well. I will leave it for them to decide. All I would say to them is that yes, this is what it was like. Trust me. I was there.