Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 June 2021 from Orenda Books
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…
If you haven’t heard of Louise Beech’s book by now then you’ve clearly been on a social media holiday. Nowt wrong with that, but be aware that this book is one of those rare creatures; a completely un-mawkish, unputdownable read that is heart-wrenching and immersive.
Regular readers will know that I like my crime fiction hard-boiled and my literary fiction intelligent and both should be well-written. Louise Beech’s book is beautifully written, intelligent and features solid, three dimensional characters whose complexities underline their authenticity.
Writing about someone with autism must be fraught with danger; my antennae were alert for hints of condescension, but Beech is a much better writer than that. Her Sebastian is rounded; sometimes stubborn, always particular. He knows what he likes and he’s sure about what he wants and sees no reason why he can’t have it.
His mother Veronica loves him as any mother should love her child – completely. She only wants him to be happy and on his terms. Veronica makes mistakes in this book, but they are mistakes borne from that love and we all understand that.
Violetta is a trainee nurse. Driven by necessity she is currently making her money in ways she’d much rather not. She is most definitely not enjoying herself. Still, when Veronica makes Violetta an offer, she hesitates. It isn’t the money, or the fact that Sean is autistic; she has a wider moral issue about what she’s being asked to do.
And it is this question of moral ambiguity that lies at the heart of this astonishing and wonderful book. It is the extent to which we persuade ourselves that there are good lies and in so doing, treat those we love as if they are different, when all the time we tell them they are just the same as us.
By underestimating Sebastian, we fail to understand how much he expects from those he loves and that, inevitably leads to disappointment and heartbreak. There’s a point in the book when this ‘good lie’ meets the truth head on. I cried then and did not stop sobbing ‘til I got the end.
There’s a truth in this book that speaks straight to the heart and brooks no flimflamming around. With a strong emotional core and warmth that comes from genuine understanding, this is a very special book indeed.
Three dimensional, complex characters are Louise Beech’s speciality. Here her narrative arc is perfectly drawn and her dialogue sings with authenticity. Sebastian’s voice in particular, rings out loud and true.
Verdict: I love this book and its characters. It’s Louise best book so far and that’s saying something. I have no hesitation in recommending this to everyone- it’s a must read!
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the
Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best magazine Book of the Year, and was followed by I Am Dust.