This book by Kit de Waal has a simple feel to it told from the perspective of Leon aged 8 at the start of the book. He lives with his newly born brother and his mother in 1980s Britain. He loves his brother and his mother however he increasingly finds himself caring for both of them. While the nature of his mother’s problem is not specified at the time mother is certainly not well. I could almost argue that this is the “good” part of the story as things go fairly steadily downhill from this point for Leon.
I’ve always found books that are written through a child’s eyes tread a difficult path. Enough knowledge is needed to get the storyline over – too much may well make the voice of the child seem wrong. For me this book managed that problem fairly convincingly. The book follows Leon’s life for a while and at times I simply found it heart rending – if his life makes him a little angry and affects his behaviour it is not surprising at all.
I did find Leon convincing as a character. I also thought the other main characters in the book were very well written and convincing too. If some of the bit part players are a little lacking in dimension I was happy that that was just how Leon saw them – minor players in his life. Almost throughout this book there was an underlying sense of dread. This did not make for a miserable read at all though – simply very rich in atmosphere. I really did love 90% of this book and read it very quickly – I kept finding it on my mind when I’d put it down. My only reservation is the last 10% roughly. I simply found the ending wasn’t quite what I was after or expecting I guess. My views on the ending do not change the fact that I think this is a very good book indeed and particularly for a first novel. I’d like to read another book by Kit de Waal.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review