My Name is LeonTitle: My Name is Leon

Author: Kit de Waal

Pages: 254 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Books UK

The Blurb

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

The Review

My Name is Leon is the debut novel from Kit de Waal; an exciting new voice in the world of literature. It is the story of Leon, a young boy who has to cope with one of the cruellest hands that life can deal. Leon and his younger brother Jake are put into care after it is deemed that their mother Carol cannot look after them, but in a cruel twist of fate a new family want to adopt Jake and leave Leon behind. This is the heartbreaking story of a young boy whose confusion is echoed by the rioting backdrop of Thatcherite Britain.

It is clear from the first page that My Name is Leon is something special. Told from Leon’s perspective, as the reader you are completely immersed in how he is feeling about things. Leon’s anger, confusion and frustration are palpable and the story had my heart pulsing with empathy on several occasions.

I found myself getting angry on behalf of Leon. Angry by the way the social workers tried to manipulate his feelings, angry that he was rejected because of the colour of his skin and angry that nothing was explained to Leon. Nothing. It was awful to read but it is important. My Name is Leon is an important novel.

My Name is Leon is one of the best books that I have read in 2016. The foster system has been explored many times in novels but I would be hard pressed to find one that deals with the topic so well and so brutally honest.

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal is available now.

For more information regarding Kit de Waal (@KitdeWaal) please visit www.kitdewaal.com.

For more information regarding Penguin Books UK (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

5 Stars

 

The Blurb

How do you solve a crime when you can’t remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable – just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding. She has been lucky enough to have spent most of her working life in libraries, bookshops and galleries. She completed the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel.

The Review

Firstly, let me just say wow. I only use a small word and not an expressive hyperbole because to be quite frank I don’t think that being hyperbolic expresses just how amazing Elizabeth is Missing actually is. Therefore, before I go into things I just want to congratulate Emma Healey on her impressive novel.

Elizabeth is Missing is one of the most engaging books that I have read this year. With its mix of past and present all jumbled together it just makes for a remarkable read. The story follows Maud, an older lady who is suffering from the most debilitating and heartbreaking of illnesses – Alzheimer’s disease. She is constantly forgetting things, places and people. She lives day to day by notes that she finds round the house ‘Don’t make toast’, ‘Don’t cook eggs’ – for the most part she looks after herself but has daily visits from her carers and her daughter Helen who has taken on the majority of duties as carer.

The story centres around Maud’s belief that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing however, as the reader we do not know whether this is a new event or a past event or something that Maud has made up in her confused state. The whole mystery of missing people is an allegory for the loss of mind and it is pretty powerful.

Elizabeth is Missing is truly heartbreaking and you want people to believe Maud, heck you want to believe her but equally you begin to question the validity of her statements. It is just an awful illness that Emma Healey has approached with such sensitivity that it makes it difficult to believe that Elizabeth is Missing is only her debut novel.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is available now.

Follow Emma Healey (@ECHealey) on Twitter

Elizabeth is Missing