Novel: The Story of Tom Brennan
(Burke, J C, the Story of Tom Brennan, Random House, 2005, ISBN-13: 9781741660920)
Rubric: In this elective students explore a variety of texts that deal with aspects of growing up or transition into new phases of life and a broader world. People encounter different experiences and respond to them individually. These personal experiences may result in growth, change, or other consequences. Students respond to and compose a range of texts that illustrate different pathways into new experiences. They examine the features of texts that shape our knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about individuals venturing into new experiences. You could be asked to respond to a question in the HSC exam in ANY form. E.g. essay, report, speech... etc.
Tom is the teenage protagonist in a phase of transition, he copes with: - Living with trauma
- A transforming sibling relationship
- Social acceptability in a new place
- Relationship with the opposite sex
- Family coping mechanisms
- Defining self worth through male-female relationships
- Emotional growth
- Changed place in social order
- Social judgment
- Being mentored through the transition
The Story of Tom Brennan by J.C. Burke starts with a fatal car accident – a young driver who’s had too much to drink goes too fast and in an instant two of his friends are dead and his cousin is left with permanent spinal injuries. But the book isn’t about the car crash; it isn’t even about the driver. This is a book about seventeen-year-old Tom Brennan, and how his life changes when his older brother, Daniel, kills two people and paralyses another. The family must move from Mumbilli because they are no longer welcome in the town – Daniel’s actions have affected all their lives. Because they fear the reaction of the township, they leave quietly at 4.30 am. J.C. Burke uses their escape as a prologue, which lures the reader immediately into the story as a sense of mystery develops. In the year that follows, while the family tries to settle into their new lives in Coghill, Tom develops immensely – from a teenager who feels constant torment, especially at the thought of his cousin Fin’s injury, to one who is able to accept the situation and move on. This Herculean feat involves a myriad of other aspects and characters. Finding out that he can play rugby without his unbeatable partnership with Daniel, running with his Uncle Brendan, the possibility of a climbing trip to the Himalayas, seeing Daniel drag himself back from the brink of suicide, and finding love amidst the chaos – all these things help Tom to find a ticket out of the past.
- Tom Brennan – Year 11 student and rugby half-back
- Daniel Brennan – Tom’s popular older brother and star rugby five-eighth - Kylie Brennan – younger sister of Tom and Daniel, doing Year 9 - Joseph Brennan – Father of Tom, Daniel and Kylie; rugby coach - Theresa Brennan – mother of Tom, Daniel and Kylie
- Fin – cousin to Tom, Daniel and Kylie; injured in car accident - Mrs. Healy/Gran – grandmother (Theresa’s mother)
- Uncle Brendan – Theresa’s (emerging) gay brother; Gran’s son; Tom’s mentor. - Chrissy – Tom’s love interest
- Claire – Daniel’s girlfriend
Features and Techniques:
• The concept of 1st person narrator who is a young male who can express his internal battles, dialogues and thoughts with sophistication and complexity; yet is quiet, stoic and simple around his male friends. • The effect of revealing more about the night of the accident in flashback. • The contrast between Tom and Daniel and their representation. • Judging Daniel as the story continues, firstly through the eyes of Tom and then through his own words. • Impact of letters.
• Not hearing the story from the victim’s perspective. • The...