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In his poem 'The Explosion', Philip Larkin wrote 'The dead go on before us, they/ Are sitting in God's house in comfort,/ We shall see them face to face.' He was quoting, of course, without religious belief, but still with a kind of compassionate assent to the faith simply held, not just in ancient times, but a mere generation or two ago, and now endorsed - if not by any supernatural reality - at least by the power of memory and love. This is exactly the effect of Almond's extraordinary collection of stories, drawn from memory and imagination, about his childhood in a large Catholic family on Tyneside in the post-war years. The book, though in no respect morbid but on the contrary life-affirming and life-enhancing, is full of death - the death of a sister, of a father from lung cancer, of a mother in later years, of a childhood, a local way of life, the Catholic faith. It is a moving, sometimes troubled and indignant requiem, but also a celebration of family life. In an age replete with dysfunctional families, it tells of one which was, and seemingly still is, entirely functional and loving. Clearly this is not every child's book. But for Skellig and its successors, it would not have been published for children at all. Many of its individual stories were first printed or broadcast for adults, and the collection should now reach an adult readership. But teenagers who are entering their own equivalent experiences - the intense and hurtful epiphanies induced by death, time, love and change - will find that it expresses a profound and helpful truth.