What I Was

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
In 1962, a 16-year-old boy is dropped off by his father at a boarding school on the windswept coast of East Anglia. It is a model of its kind–the rooms are freezing, the food is disgusting, the older boys are sadistic, and the masters are the ineffectual, damaged castoffs of a dying Empire.

But the boy is used to the drill and well practiced at detached dreaming, imagining himself someone else, somewhere else. Until one day, falling behind one of the regular runs along the coast, he meets Finn.
Finn seems like a character from a novel, or a dream. Dressed in clothes that look the way they did a century before, Finn lives alone with his cat in a tiny fisherman’s hut. The two become friends, the boy risking scandalous rumour and expulsion from school.

But the idyll cannot last, disaster invades from all sides, and the boy discovers that nothing has been what he believed.

What I Was will cement Meg Rosoff’s reputation as a writer of extraordinary skill and sensitivity, who recreates with uncanny exactness the passions of youth.



Rule number one: Trust no one.

By the time we reached St. Oswald’s, fog had completely smothered the coast. Even this far inland, the mist was impenetrable; our white headlights merely illuminated the fact that we -couldn’t see. Hunched over the wheel, father edged the car forward a few...
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"This memorable, atmospheric novel has a richness and light that rewards multiple readings....In her compassionate, honest meditation on the human condition, Rosoff takes us places no one else can." –Toronto Star

"There is a magic, power, and mystery in the novel, without anyone ever waving a wand." –San Francisco Chronicle

"A richly patterned work about secrets, what the tide hides and reveals, and how an innocent crush can utterly change everything." –People, 4 stars

"[Rosoff's] poetry lies in her elegant, straightforward descriptions of human activity – cooking crabs, climbing a chalk cliff, learning to sail – instead of lurid embellishment. The result is a beautifully crafted tale that seems, like its protagonist, both enduringly old and fluently new." –Los Angeles Times