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Posted September 21, 2010
You'll read it again and again
I have read this book probably 10 times. You're sucked into Burt's world without any hope of getting out. It's hard to discern if he is truly disturbed or if his parents just can't seem to care enough. The writing, from the viewpoint of an 8 year old, is exquisite, intelligent and never takes you out of the setting. It's imaginative and tragic. Everytime I read it I get a new feeling of the events and of the characters. It's a rare, but great, find.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 6, 2006
Lonliness in Childhood
After I read 'When I was Five...' I felt utterly sad for two days. It left a really powerful impression on me. It haunts you like regret. The story delves into issues that are not typical for an 8 year old narrator abandonment, sexual frustration, lonliness, love. It is heart breaking because of the story teller's (Burt) horrible hand in life. Detached parents and teachers, strange tangents of make believe (in solitude) and an inability to comunicate. He is punishable under the laws of a parent world that he does not understand. For example, the story reaches a point where Burts infatuation with his classmate Jessica culminates in a naively orchestrated 'sex-act'. It is in fact initiated by Jessica. But upon being discovered by Jessica's Mother, it is Burt who is accused as the aggressor. It brings to mind the song 'Boy's Dont Cry'. The characters demise in a prison of Institutional psychiatry is a result of a language barrier and social pigeon-holing. You feal stuck, too young and helpless along with Burt.. and it hurts just like your own childhood. It is a modern masterpieceWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 19, 2000
ORIGINAL, MYSTICAL, AND AMAZING!
'Getting in touch with your inner child' has been given entirely new voice. 'When I Was Five I Killed Myself', a re-release of an amazing story by Howard Buten, has just found new life on this side of the ocean. Originally published as 'Burt' here in the States in 1981, this original and fresh young adult book didn't find immediate success. Buten then had it published in France, where it (and he) became known as 'one of France's best-loved contemporary writers', even though the author and the story are both American. Go figure. 'When I Was Five...' is the wholly original story of Burton Rembrandt, a precocious and misunderstood young man, trying to grow up around adults who seem to have landed here from another planet. None of their words or actions make much sense to Burton...or Burt...but, neither does he to those who must try to understand and deal with his unique way of seeing the world around him. When an event transpires totally out of Burt's control, and the resulting backlash lands him in The Children's Trust Residence Center, Burt finds himself in a dangerous and completely alien new world. Now, nothing at all makes sense to him...and he reacts in the only way his young mind knows...by throwing tantrums, aching to voice not only his confusion at the treatment he's recieving, but also at his frustration with not being able to communicate this to adults. Told completely from Burt's point of view, this story is one of the most intelligent and lyrical stories ever written. Given the hazy mysticism of youth and told in a voice that is at once immature and completely adult, this goes down as one of the most influential books I have ever read in this genre. It's message and story literally took my breath away at times...and its importance lingers long after I've read the last word.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.