The A-Z of You and Me – James Hannah
He fell for a girl he can’t get back.
Now he’s hoping for something.
While he waits he plays a game:
He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.
He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.
But he doesn’t have long.
And he still has one thing left to do …
The A-Z of You and Me is published by Doubleday. My thanks to Alison Barrow of Transworld Books for the opportunity to review this title.
Normally when I read a novel and a character is dying the focus of the book is to have the principle character track down a murderer. However, in James Hannah’s emotive novel The A-Z of You and Me it is the central character that is dying and the story follows his final days.
The central character is Ivo. When we first meet him he is in a hospice and is resigned to the fact he is here to see out the last days of his life. His carer (Sheila) has suggested that he try to identify a part of his body for each letter of the alphabet and asks Ivo can share a story or recollection about each. So beginning with ‘Adams Apple’ we embark on the narrative of Ivo’s life.
Through a series of flashbacks we share Ivo’s memories as he recollects significant events. We get to see how he recalls his interactions with his family and friends and how these friends reacted when Ivo met Mia who would become Ivo’s girlfriend. James Hannah has made Ivo a very real figure and we see how he makes mistakes, gets easily led astray by his friends and frequently how he seems to regret choices he made.
After each memory flashback we rejoin Ivo in the present day. His health deteriorates each time we return and (as we become more caught up within the story) it becomes hard to accept that this character we are travelling with and learning about, is going to die. He has Sheila for company in the hospice and she is a phenomenal character proving care, support and encouragement in Ivo’s dark times.
The strength of the story lies in the characters and how they behave. James Hannah has captured this brilliantly and it is impossible not to laugh through the fun times or despair when Ivo makes a decision that we know is the wrong one.
At one point I had to stop reading. I was on a train and I knew that something was about to happen in the story which I did not want to read – I particularly did not want to read it on a busy train! I waited till I was alone before pressing on and I was as traumatised as I had expected. Wonderful writing.
This may not be a story that everyone will ‘enjoy’ as the subject matter is tough reading. However, this IS as story that will stick with you. Especially the ending.