Tuesday, 4 January 2011

'Millions' - Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a highly successful scriptwriter and children’s author who also just happens to be a committed Catholic. You can read the transcript of a wonderful interview he gave to the BBC here. Cottrell Boyce’s relentless enthusiasm for his faith comes across in spite of, or perhaps because of, the persistent attempts of the interviewer to find some sign of dissent to latch onto.

Millions (which was first conceived as a film directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting fame) is probably Cottrell Boyce’s most obviously Catholic book. Damian, the Year Five narrator, is obsessed with saints and sees them at regular intervals throughout the novel. Whether he is suffering from a religious mania as a result of his mother’s premature death or whether he simply has a childlike faith is never made explicit.

The saints he meets sometimes speak and behave as if they are extensions of Damian’s subconscious mind, which suggests the former interpretation, but, on the other hand, they do also guide and inspire him when he is faced with the book’s central ethical dilemma: what to do when thousands of pounds fall, almost literally, into his lap.

For this is what Millions is really about: the destructive power of money and how to cope with it. Damian may be an odd boy who is struggling to cope with the loss of his mother but he is also the one who, ultimately, manages to do the right thing when faced with this wholly unexpected windfall.

Millions is not a book to be taken too seriously - some of the characters are caricatures in the best Dickensian tradition and some of the basic premises, like the Euro switchover day, are barely credible – but that doesn't really matter because it's meant to be funny.

The New Atheists would have us believe that Catholicism is a joyless religion but the sheer number of Catholic comic novelists (quite apart from anything else) give this charge the lie. Cottrell Boyce’s Catholicism, as he explains in this EWTN interview (Cottrell Boyce appears 34 minutes in), is a liberating force and so it is hardly a surprise that Millions, like all his other books, is full of life, vitality and good humour.

We hear a lot about the decline of the Catholic novel: here is one Catholic writer who is very much alive and kicking.

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