I am delighted to be the next stop on Shtum blog tour. Don’t forget to try and stop on each blog for some great reviews and posts by the author.
Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.
Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.
When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.
A powerful, emotional, but above all enjoyable read, perfect for fans of THE SHOCK OF THE FALL and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.
There has been an unbelievable amount of hype out about this book from as early as December when I read it even though it isn’t due out until tomorrow. Hearing so many great things about it, I had to get hold of a copy to see what all the fuss was about.
Shtum gives the readers an insight into life with an autistic child. Jonah has a severe form of it and his parents, Emma and Ben are really struggling. Even though I don’t have an autistic child myself, I could still very much understand the frustration and emotions that the parents themselves were feeling. There are certainly so many struggles that I wasn’t aware of and I have certainly learned more about autism from reading this novel.
I don’t know if it was the way it was written, but for some reason even though I felt compassion for Ben and Emma, I just couldn’t connect with them. It could be because the author is probably quite brutal with the honesty of the thoughts of Ben in particular. At times it shocked me to how he was thinking but when I sat back and thought about it I am sure at one time or another all parents have thought and felt the same.
The relationship that really grabbed me in the story was with Ben and his dad. I really enjoyed the parts of the story that go back to Georg’s past as it is a time that has always fascinated me and I love learning more about that time in history,
I found Shtum to be overall an enjoyable read, It bordered on a darker sense of humour for me and did pull on the heart strings though not as much as I thought it would do. I did really like Shtum and even though I didn’t love it as much as others seem to, I can still see this book being a huge hit with readers.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Orion Publishing Group for an Advanced Readers Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads rating 4/5 stars.
Shtum is due to be released on the 7th of April in kindle and hardback form on Amazon.
Jem Lester was a journalist for nine years and saw the Berlin Wall fall in 1989 – and though there, he denies personal responsibility. He was also the last journalist to interview the legendary Fred Zinnemann, before the director died. He denies responsibility for that too. He taught English and Media studies at secondary schools for nine years. Jem has two children, one of whom is profoundly autistic, and for them he accepts total responsibility. He lives in London with his partner and her two children. On his inspiration for the book he says: “I think, initially, the idea for Shtum came from the realisation that my own non-verbal, autistic son was more forthright in expressing his wants and needs than I was. Of course, I wanted to dismantle the stereotype of the ‘gifted’ autistic child but at the same time I thought it imperative that the joy and humour of these wonderful, innocent children was recognised and celebrated.”
Lists of 5: Books that made me;
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Yes, I know, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it truly started off my literary ambitions in a serious way. The story of Holden Caulfield’s weekend in New York, after being expelled from his latest private school, was handed to me by my English teacher when I was eleven. I read it very quickly and when she asked me what I thought of it the following week, I replied: ‘He was me, Holden Caulfield was me.’ Leaving aside the setting (New York) and the timeframe (1950s), the thoughts and feelings that JD Salinger gives his young protagonist were wholly familiar to me. It was the first time I had identified with a character in a book and it was something of an epiphany.
The World According to Garp, John Irving
So, I’m just nineteen and I’m on a flight between Sydney and Townsville, in Australia on the way to visit the Great Barrier Reef and I hate flying. My travelling companion is sitting next to me holding the same unread book that he’s carried for the last three months. I vaguely recognise the title, because it’s a bit weird and take it from him. It was an initial attempt to calm my nerves, before cracking the bottle of whisky in my bag. I needn’t have worried, it took all my attention away. John Irving’s life story of a boy conceived through the last erection of a dying man broke so much ground for me. It was at once absurd and moving, hilariously funny and horrifying. The introduction to the book also included a quote from a mentor that John Irving felt fit to reveal: ‘You’ll find that anything you do other than writing will feel vaguely dissatisfying.’ It is something that has stayed with me over the decades as valiantly held on to my own writing dreams.
Another Country, James Baldwin
Another Country came out of nowhere for me. I bought it as part of my post-university trawl of world literature. James Baldwin is one of the giants of twentieth century American literature and the voice of black alienation and anger, but the reason I love his writing and, especially Another Country, is his brilliance when describing human intimacy. AC is the story of the demise of hugely charismatic Black, jazz musician and the destructive relationship with a white woman that causes his downfall.
Satan in Goray, Isaac Bashevis Singer
Nobody recreated the lost world of East European Jewry like IBS. His stories are magical, peopled with extraordinary characters. His first published novella, Satan in Goray describes the Jewish messianic cult that arose in the village of Goray following the Chmelniki Massacres of 1648 and the effects on the population of rumours of the arrival of false messiah, Sabbatai Zevi on the local population. Bashevis singer wrote in Yiddish and soon after his work was translated into English, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Kolymsky Heights, Lionel Davidson
I was so glad to see Kolymsky Heights relaunched for a new generation of readers, recently. I first read and reviewed it on its original publication twenty years ago and was lucky enough to interview Lionel Davidson at the time. It is the most brilliantly plotted adventure story I have ever read with a journey that takes the reader from the office of a Cambridge don, to backwoods Alaska, to Japan, Georgia and Arctic Siberia. Not a word is wasted and the tension and setting are brilliant portrayed. The hero is an imposing, polyglot, native Canadian with a difficult past – the only man in the world capable of taking on the books central task. What more could you want? Kolymsky Heights is my go to book when I need to lose myself completely, and I have read once year two decades.