Reviewer: Catriona Troth
What we thought: “His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”
Thus Matthew Home introduces his big brother, who died when the boys were just ten and eight.
So we know that Simon is dead. And we know that Matt is a patient – or ‘service user’ – at a mental health day centre. In the course of the book we will follow Matt as he traces the thread reaching back through time that links those two circumstances.
The story is told in the disjointed way that Matt recalls his life. At the same time, the present day keeps intruding on the writing process – as Clare-or-maybe-Anna reads over his shoulder or Click-Click-Wink-Wink Steve, the ever-cheerful occupational therapist, bounces into the room.
This book won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year for mental health nurse, Filer, who has used his experience to create a rare and honest portrayal of schizophrenia. But the book is also an examination of the impact of grief and loss on a family.
And if this all sounds heavy, it is also at times both funny and touching.
In the end notes, Filer describes envisaging the book as ‘the crumpled stack of Matt’s writing and drawings; the typewriter pages with their smudged ink; the letters from Denise; the words that Patricia cut up and stuck down with Pritt Stick.” What a joy that would be to discover in a book shop – if hopelessly expensive to produce.
You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan, Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
Avoid if you dislike: disjointed narratives, stories involving mental health or the death of children
Ideal Accompaniment: a can of Special Brew
Genre: Lit Fic