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A memoir about the last great polio epidemic, by an author who was one its victims.

It is very easy to get polio. Patrick Cockburn was six when he woke up one day in the summer of 1956 with a headache and a sore throat. His parents, Claud and Patricia Cockburn, had recently returned to Ireland, to their house in East Cork, careless of the fact that a polio epidemic had broken out in Cork City. He caught the disease and was taken to the fever hospital. The virus attacks the nerves of the brain and the spinal cord leading to paralysis of the muscles. Patrick could no longer walk.
The Broken Boy is at once a memoir of Patrick Cockburn's own experience of polio, a portrait of his parents, both prominent radicals, and the story of the Cork epidemic, the last great polio epidemic in the world.


Charming, interesting and moving by turn

Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph

Engrossing... an often perceptive genre-defying gem...engaging and entertaining

Tom Adair, Scotland on Sunday

'This is wonderful writing...Brilliant...Cockburn has pulled off something remarkable'


'This is a story of endurance and a hugely adventurous mind, elegantly told.' - Robert Fox, Evening Standard

'Sad and entertaining, and altogether evocative of a vanished Ireland'

Jeremy Lewis, Sunday Times

'This is a gentle, uncomplaining story written with affection and insight.'

Maeve Binchy, Mail on Sunday

'Engaging and witty...Oddly uplifting'


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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    June 15, 2006


    336 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    December 1, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    336 pages

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au


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