I am very honoured that Words Are My Craft is going to be a stop on James Hannah’s The A to Z of You and Me blog tour this September! I adored the book and was flattered to be contacted by the Transworld Publishers (Penguin Random House) publicity team about the tour.
On 2nd September James Hannah will stopping by Words Are My Craft for a Q&A with yours truly. In anticipation of this exciting event, I am posting a review of the brilliant book here. Be sure to get a copy and read it, and stop by the blog next Wednesday to see James Hannah discussing the book!
I’m lying here in a bed, my head full of regret, with only a little bird flitting through a tree to comfort me.
Friends want to visit, but I refuse them. So my carer Sheila has given me a task to keep me occupied.
An A-Z list. Think of a part of my body for each letter. Tell a little tale about it.
When I reach H for Heart, what will I say?
How we loved to string crocheted hearts in trees? How our hearts steadily unravelled?
So I begin with A. Adam’s apple.
Will you be there to catch me when I fall?
This novel is deeply emotional and captures the heart and the mind. Ivo is a 40-year-old ex-addict who is dying and slowly deteriorating in a hospice. James Hannah is very clever in that he managed to create such a dynamic and colourful story with a narrative that mainly involves the protagonist spending every day in bed and remembering scenes from his life. The book manages to be active and action-filled and yet gentle, no doubt engaging a wide range of readers.
Ivo has made a lot of mistakes in his past, and is a deeply flawed character. But that’s simply what makes him so appealing. He becomes real, tangible, someone believable – in whom the reader can really invest their feelings and attention. He has abused his body, abused the trust of his ex-girlfriend, and has lost both control and the respect of those around him. And yet, somehow, he never quite cuts the connection between himself and your heartstrings.
Hannah has filled the book with complicated and richly developed characters. His carer Sheila is a wonderful woman, and a real rock for Ivo. We’ve all met someone like her. She takes no nonsense but has time for everyone. She is a constant for Ivo in a terrifyingly lonely existence. Until he meets Amber, an incredibly strong and yet at the same time vulnerable young girl who is slowly losing her mother to cancer. Here we witness Ivo make a positive impact on another person, influence her for the better, when for so long his influence has had a negative affect on those he loves: his ex-girlfriend Mia, his sister Laura, his old best friends Mal and Kelvin. But that’s what this book is about: how one human being can affect another. Mia is the voice of reason in her relationship with Ivo and often manages to steer him in the right direction; Kelvin and Laura try their hardest to get him to talk to Mal again before it’s too late; and of course, Mal has had a bad influence on almost everyone from the start. How can things be made right when time is running out? Is it even possible, considering who Ivo and Mal are?
The concept of Ivo going through the alphabet and telling a story about a body part starting with that letter gives a clever justification to the non-linear narrative, and the non-linear narrative allows the writer to give us certain information only when it will make the most impact to the reader’s experience. At the beginning of the book, we know that Ivo’s ex-girlfriend is gone…but where? Where did she go, and why? What happened? Why is Ivo so ill, so young? And why isn’t he talking to his sister and his former best friend? We can only find out by following Ivo’s numerous stories and let the alphabet lead us to the answers…
For this reason, the novel is well paced, and it has both the appeal and success of commercial work while featuring the beauty of literary writing. It is quite unique in its style. It is breathtaking, it is artistic. It is more than just a bunch of words on paper.
Of course, I bawled like a baby in the last few scenes, but this is testament only to how heart-wrenchingly brilliant this book is. There is such power in every word, none misplaced or ineffective. The novel was a long time in the making and development but this shows in every glowing syllable. You’d be insane not to give it a go.
Be sure to stop by for the blog tour stop on 2nd September!