Book Review – Holes, by Louis Sachar

by | Jun 1, 2020

A mob sets fire to the school house and burns it to the ground. They are angry because the schoolmistress was seen kissing the local onion seller. She is white, he is black. According to local law, this is not allowed.

Sam, the onion seller, escapes in his boat, the Mary Lou. He does not get far. The angry mob pursue him and he is shot and killed. The Mary Lou sinks to the bottom of the lake.

This is just one of the three stories that interweave throughout Holes.

This one happened 100 years before the story of Stanley Yelnats begins, when black people had little-to-no rights and were treated as second class citizens. Yet, as I watched this particular scene on the film adaptation of this story, I couldn’t help noting how much it echoes what is happening in America right now. What is STILL happening, even after all this time.

In her anger and grief at being unable to love someone just because of the colour of their skin and being persecuted for it, the schoolmistress takes her revenge. She shoots the Sheriff, who stood by and did nothing whilst the violence and murder took place. From that day on, she becomes known as the outlaw, Kissing Kate. Not one drop of rain lands on the town after that day and the lake dries up.

Although this is a made-up story, it is reminder of what people can be driven to through anger and grief.

A pure and gentle schoolmistress looked up to by her pupils, admired and loved by the town’s folk, is driven to violence by an injustice that leaves a gaping hole in her life; one that can never be filled.

There is so much more to Holes than the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who ends up in the detention centre named Camp Green Lake due to being wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes. The holes the boys are are made to dig each day, supposedly in order to build character, have a much deeper meaning that is cleverly interwoven with the story of Kissing Kate Barlow and her tragic tale.

Stanley’s own story of his family’s curse, going back to the time of his great, great, grandfather is the link that connects all three and brings everything together in a way that I did not see coming at all!

I can totally understand why Holes is often used as a class text in Years 5 and 6. It encompasses friendship and loyalty, heartache and injustice and perseverance and belief. I would recommend this book for both young and old.

The film adaptation by Disney, is one of the best book-to-film adaptations I’ve seen.

Book Review - Holes - Nikki Young


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