Book Club

When Stories And Real Life Collide


The Boy in the Book by poet, performer and writer Nathan Penlington is a fascinating read that takes you on a journey and creates a perfect synergy alongside a relaxing villa holiday, where you have the freedom to embark on your own adventure. In this unique true story, Nathan purchases a full set of books that he’d loved as child, and what he discovers inside these books triggers a series of events that change his life. The Boy in the Book is a rich evocation of a childhood love of stories and is perfect for booklovers and anyone looking for a completely out of the ordinary journey.

Here is the story behind the creation of Penlington’s intriguing novel:

“I’ve always been fascinated by words and the worlds that they can create, worlds both at once temporary and tangible, alternate realities in which it is easy to escape. But the most intriguing stories are often found in the most unexpected, every day of places.

As a child I was obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure books, the series of books which allowed you as a reader to actually inhabit the story by deciding what happens next at the end of each page. I loved being able to play out each possibility, escape into a world of adventure, and if the story ended badly, to also be able to turn back the pages and try again.

A few years ago, after a tense bidding war driven by an impending middle-aged desire to relive those adventures of my childhood, I bought a collection of the first 106 Choose Your Own Adventure books from eBay. I paid a total of £41.01. That tactical extra 1p won me the auction. If I’d made a different decision the rest of my story wouldn’t exist.

James Villas Book Club - Nathan Penlington

Nathan Penlington

When the books arrived I began flicking through them. It seemed that they had once belonged to one child, he’d written his name across the top of the first page of every book – Terence Prendergast. As well as writing his name he’d also written other things in them – sarcastic asides and wry hints for future adventurers. And hidden in the first book, The Cave of Time, I also found four pages of a heartbreaking diary.

The diary chronicles the difficulties Terence had as a teenager trying to fit in, to make sense of the world, and the struggles of adolescence. What I thought would simply be a nostalgic trip back to the books of my childhood became a very different kind of quest. The last few years of my life have focussed on trying to solve the mysteries of Terence’s diary, along the way coming to terms with my own childhood and the kind of person I am as an adult.

One thing is certain, I’ve always been an obsessive. I’m fortunate that those traits are generally contained by collecting. The Choose Your Own Adventure obsession triggered The Boy in the Book, and my last show was also about one of my largest collections: the merchandise of 1970’s icon and self-confessed psychic spoon bender Uri Geller. Since his rise to fame, Uri has produced an exhaustive series of board games, an impressive folding bike, over fourteen books, a line of jewellery produced exclusively for the home-shopping channel QVC, a collection of psychically energised teddy bears, a limited-edition range of porcelain plates and crystal decanters, and a pop album.

James Villas Book Club - The Boy in the Book

The Boy in the Book

Four years ago, I thought it was time to share that particular obsession with the world by writing a stand-up magic show in which the audience duplicated Uri Geller’s psychic feats. I didn’t predict Uri himself would come to see the first performance. From behind the curtains I could see him sat in the middle of the front row, and as the lights went up on stage, I had never been so scared in my life.

After that particular Uri experience I became interested in where real life overlaps with the work of a writer, and what happens when you push at those edges. What the story of my search for Terence Prendergast in The Boy in the Book proves is that those edges push back.”

The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington is out now, published by Headline. 


Vicky is a Team Bookends, Headline Publishing at James Villa Holidays.

My job means I’m surrounded by one of my favourite things: books! At Bookends we love...

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