My Name is Leon is the latest novel to be read at the Waterstones Bookclub in Ballymena. The novel has just been awarded the Irish Novel of the Year and was shortlisted for the First Novel award in the Costa Prize. Written by Kit De Waal this book is sure to be a favourite among readers. De Waal’s mother was a foster carer and she herself has formerly worked worked as a magistrate and in criminal and family law. She has poured her experiences and knowledge into her writing which makes this book as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Here are the three reasons why we think that you should pick up My Name is Leon.
Ballymena Book Club – My Name is Leon
The book is narrated by nine year old Leon. We love books who give us an unusual point of view and the genius idea of using a child as the narrator make the difficult parts of the book work. As we meet Leon he is holding his new born baby brother Jake as his mother goes outside for a smoke. While this is shocking to the reader, Leon finds this totally normal for his chaotic mother. As time wears on we, the reader experience the discomfort of understanding fully the predicament that Leon is actually in as his mother has a breakdown leaving Leon to care for his baby brother Jake. Of course it is not long before the boys are taken into care.
It is heartbreaking accurate in portraying a child’s love for their parent. It is complicated but Leon loves his mother, even if she leaves him, hurts him, disappoints him and uses him – Leon still stands up for his mum – because she is his mum. Often in books we read of character who hate their family but this is a more alarming and realistic view of how a mothers love is irreplaceable. Look out for the heartbreaking exchange in which Leon hands over a beloved photograph to his mother as she leaves him. Sniff, not a dry eye in the house.
It is set in one of my favourite time periods – the early eighties. Action man, The Dukes of Hazard, Curly-wurlys! We love the vibrant back drop that is so skilfully painted behind Leon’s story. Often the writers adds some light relief in the setting which is welcome due to the heavy subject matter.
Overall this story offers a beautiful insight into a son who appears to have lost it all. I have no doubt that De Waal has incorporated many true life examples into her tale which makes this all the more heartbreaking. But somehow, reading it through the eyes of Leon makes it beautiful and bearable. This is a tale of loss, love and a how there are some extraordinary individuals out there who are willing to build a family for those who have lost theirs .
Have I convinced you? If you are interested then please pick up a copy of My Name is Leonand join the Waterstones Ballymena bookclub on Wednesday 5th July at 7pm.