Monday 9 March 2015

Review: the A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

the A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
Publisher: Doubleday
Release date: 12 March 2015
Rating: *****
Back cover blurb: 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?

The A to Z of You and Me is a beautifully written love story with years of grief and regret at its heart.

Ivo is dying, he is forty and in a hospice, refusing to see friends and family and just waiting for the time to come. Ivo is too young to be in a hospice, but life has dealt him more than one tragedy so Ivo just accepts that is where he has ended up.

Sheila (who is brilliant) is Ivo's carer. She is warm and funny, and encourages Ivo to take part in a game she has created for the hospice patients. Ivo must think of a body part for each letter of the alphabet, and create a story to accompany that body part.

At first Ivo is reluctant, but as he begins to recall events from his past, he becomes a willing participant.

Through Ivo's A to Z we learn much about his life, his family, friends and how he has come to be in the hospice. But we mostly learn about Mia, Ivo's ex girlfriend, some might say love of his life. For it is clear that she meant everything to him.

As we learn more about Ivo's life with Mia, we begin to understand his reluctance for visitors, particularly his former best friend, Mal. Yet Ivo's friends are (almost) as stubborn as he is and won't take no for an answer.
Will he agree to see them before the end, or will it just be too late to revisit the past?

The A to Z of You and Me by its very subject matter could make for a depressing read, but if anything it is uplifting. 
A beautifully woven tale of life and death, family and friendship. Funny yet sad and always brutally honest, the A to Z of You and Me is perhaps one of my favourite books so far this year.

Thank you James Hannah for writing such an accomplished debut. I look forward to the next...

The A to Z of You and Me is available from 12 March 2015. 
You can pre-order it now from Amazon online and Doubleday.

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Thank you to Alison Barrow (Transworld) who sent me an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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