SHTUM by Jem Lester
Shtum, due out in early April, is a great, at times heart-breaking, story. Thanks NetGalley for the opportunity to review it.
The parents of a severely autistic ten-year-old boy, Jonah, are trying to secure a residential placement for him, but the council insists he attend a mainstream secondary school with an autism unit. Coming up is the tribunal which will decide the matter.
The story revolves around Jonah’s parents, Emma and Ben, and his grandfather, Georg. Emma has a good career, while dad Ben is stuck in the family business he hates. Lester explores their relationship, as well as the uneasy one between Georg and Ben. There is a wonderfully uncomplicated connection between grandfather and grandson, one that Georg and Ben don’t manage to achieve.
Shtum is a wonderful read; well-written, often distressing, touching and powerful. The dialogue is tight, clever and often tinged with (black) humour (as in: ‘We’re being punished because we love and care for him and he’s not as good at autism as he could be’).
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
I was lucky enough to be given The Trouble with Goats and Sheep to review by Netgalley. Here’s my four star review:
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is an absolutely delightful story that drew me into the lives of the inhabitants of The Avenue in a housing estate in England in 1976. I expected it to be a light read; more a gentle literary novel than one that packed a punch. It came as a surprise, then, that it was deliciously dark just beneath the surface of the everyday lives it describes.
The community knows something about a tragic event ten years previously, and when one of the neighbours disappears, the long-kept secret threatens to unravel. Suddenly the police are on the doorstep (s) and the residents are terrified.
Said residents include a pugnacious bully and his dithering wife, the misfit at number eleven, the neighbourhood alcoholic and the obsessive compulsive, possibly autistic, husband of the woman who’s vanished. Cannon’s observations are often hilarious; sometimes uncomfortable. She deals gently with this often misguided bunch and her gentle humour pervades the story.
I loved this book and would highly recommend it, although I did feel a little let down at the slightly abrupt ending – I would have loved to have read another couple of chapters.