Anne Bonny #BookReview The Man I Think I know by @mikegayle 5* #Literary @HodderBooks ‘This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle’

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

My Review:

I actually got completely and utterly confused in the synopsis of this novel. I thought it was a modern-day version of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I wrongly assumed it was a story of romance between James and Danny. It is not!
That’s not to say, it isn’t just as beautiful and emotive in it’s creation.
The novel focuses on the friendship between Danny and James.
Which is a tender, moving and inspiring story.

‘Some people are simply beyond redemption or salvation or whatever, some of us are simply stuck being what we are’ – Danny

The novel opens to Danny getting the upsetting news that his dole is about to be stopped. He lives with his girlfriend Maya, whom he knows will be furious to discover this. Danny is 36yrs old and appears to have simply given up with life. He applies for a position at Four Oaks residential & respite home. He doesn’t do this to improve the lives of others, but simply to find easy and quick employment. He has no idea, how this choice will have a massive impact upon his life.

James is also 36yrs old, he is learning to adapt his lifestyle due to a savage and brutal attack. James was once a wealthy and privileged property develop. He was celebrating being elected as Labour MP for Birmingham South, when he was viciously assaulted. The attack left him with life-changing disabilities. He lives with his parents and enters the respite centre, so that his parents can enjoy a three-week cruise.
It has been three years since the incident that changed his life. Since the incident James has lived a life of ‘playing it safe’ which by my interpretation is surviving not living.

‘Ever since the incident the safe side is all I get to know’ – James

James arrives at Four Oaks and instantly recognises Danny from his past. But James memory is not always to be trusted, due to his acquired brain injury. Danny denies knowing who James is, which leaves James feeling even more confused and convinced that he knows Danny.

The author has written a thoroughly accurate description of a care home. My previous career was not only working in care homes but as management too. I have cared for individuals with acquired brain injuries and their level of needs is extremely complex and individual. Similarly, to dementia, no person is impacted exactly the same and the symptoms vary person to person. The author has done an outstanding level of research and paid attention to the details. I am MASSIVELY impressed.

Danny eventually admits the truth, that he does know how James is. It turns out the two attended the same prestigious boarding school. Danny was attending on scholarship and his intelligence was renowned. Which is why James is confused as to how/why Danny ended up as a carer. But just like James, Danny has a complex backstory too.

‘I just want to be normal’ – James

The two form a friendship based around James’s desire to live as independently as possible and Danny’s attempt at some form of redemption. What flows is a gentle and emotive novel. There are parts that are emotionally charged. One specific part is Martha’s letter, at that precise moment, I just dissolved into tears.

This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle.

Simply beautiful 5*

MG
Mike Gayle
Twitter
Website

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #GuestPost – #Disability – A Spoke in The Wheel by @KathleenJowitt #ContemporaryFiction #Cycling

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A Spoke In The Wheel by Kathleen Jowitt
Synopsis:

The first thing I saw was the wheelchair.

The first thing she saw was the doper.

Ben Goddard is an embarrassment – as a cyclist, as an athlete, as a human being. And he knows it.

Now that he’s been exposed by a positive drugs test, his race wins and his work with disabled children mean nothing. He quits professional cycling in a hurry, sticks a pin in a map, and sets out to build a new life in a town where nobody knows who he is or what he’s done.

But when the first person he meets turns out to be a cycling fan, he finds out that it’s not going to be quite as easy as that.

Besides, Polly’s not just a cycling fan, she’s a former medical student with a chronic illness and strong opinions. Particularly when it comes to Ben Goddard…

Guest Post:

Virginia Woolf opens her 1925 essay On Being Ill with the following observation:

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed… it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

I’d like to take that further and say that, considering how many people are living with a disability or a chronic illness, it becomes strange how little that’s reflected in fiction

We’ve had didactic Victorian fiction, often with a miraculous cure at the end of the book; we’ve had the overwrought sensationalism of Me Before You; but we’ve had very little about ordinary disabled people just getting on with their life. Disabled characters tend to be saints or villains, with not much in between. And that doesn’t reflect the world that I see around me, or the people that I see around me.

I wouldn’t say that I deliberately set out to redress that balance: it just happened that way. A Spoke in the Wheel came out of a conversation I had with my partner as we watched the Vuelta A España: he observed that endurance athletes must be some of the few people to intuitively understand the ‘spoons’ analogy of disability. I started wondering how the circumstances would need to align for two people who had that first-hand experience to have that conversation. The book started there: Ben, a professional cyclist, meets Polly, a disabled fan.

Then I started thinking about the other thing that disabled people and professional cyclists have in common: the assumptions people make about them, the hurtful, damaging assumptions that cyclists are doping to win, and that disabled people are faking it to get benefits. That went into the pot, too. (Since it’s made clear in the first two chapters, I don’t mind telling you now. He’s a cheat. She isn’t.)

I’m not physically disabled myself so I was very keen to ensure that I portrayed Polly’s ME in a sensitive and accurate manner. Joanne Harris’ Twitter thread on Ten Things About Writing Medical Conditions [link here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/979331230318686208.html%5D came just as I’d approved the final proofs of A Spoke in the Wheel, but it demonstrates very well the approach that I tried to take, particularly tweets 6, 7 and 8. Polly is much more than her disability, but her disability affects her life in all sorts of ways. She absolutely has a leading role. And there are no miracle cures, and no saccharine deathbed scenes in this book.

And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my friends who read the manuscript and said things like, ‘No, if he’s going to pick her prescription up for her then he’ll need a signed letter…’ Or, indeed, ‘Haha, yes, that’s happened to me several times!’ Not to mention the one who took her wheelchair to pieces so that I could photograph one of the wheels for the front cover…

KJpic
Kathleen Jowitt
Twitter
Website

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
ASITW blog tour

ASITW blog tour individual 17 May

#GuestPost by @Alex_Tresillian #Author of, Eyes Of The Blind @urbanebooks Visually Impaired Protagonist

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Eyes Of The Blind by Alex Tresillian 
Synopsis:
A young blind woman receives the world’s first and miraculous binocular eye transplant, but questions surround the operation. Why was she selected? And why is a major charity so keen to put up the huge amount of collateral to make the operation happen? Enter Niall Burnet, unemployed and visually impaired journalist, who believes all is not as it appears and searches for answers. Using his network of contacts he begins to unearth a conspiracy in the higher echelons of the charity, a conspiracy determiend to ensure the transplant is a ‘heroic failure’. When an ex-girlfriend is blinded, his guide dog is knocked down in a hit and run, and a doctor commits suicide, Niall joins forces with the ‘miracle patient’ to find out the truth a truth that will threaten their very lives.

#GuestPost:

I am not visually impaired. Which has led people to ask the question why the protagonist in my thriller Eyes of the Blind and its sequel Blind Justice is a totally blind journalist. It does seem, perhaps, a strange choice, not least because some risk-averse booksellers have been very nervous of stocking the titles fearing that the idea won’t sell.
And there, straight off the bat, is one of the answers. That kind of cageyness around any form of disability is a state of mind to be challenged and overrun.

For a dozen years I worked with V.I. students and learned as much from them as they did from me. I saw all types, from those who were really struggling to cope to those who were making so much of their lives that to call it a triumph over adversity would be an insult. From the outside looking in, I could see, and in some measure understand, the world they experience.

I came away with a notion of sharing that with as wide an audience as I could. To me there was an advantage in not being V.I. myself, because I could see my characters as others would see them, as well as try to inhabit the world through their perception of it.

My protagonist, Niall Burnet, has been blind from the age of twelve:
“Niall’s monitor had started to pack up at the age of eight, although he had gone on seeing up to the age of twelve. It meant that the world was still a visual space to him; he prided himself on the fact that he still thought visually, that he could describe people and places in such a way that no-one could believe he couldn’t see them.”

He is curious, challenging, intelligent but prone to crises of self-esteem during which he leans increasingly on his guide dog, Hugo. What I hope readers will see in him is the burning desire to be treated as ‘normal’ and unremarkable cohabiting with the acknowledgment that there is a ‘blind world’, almost a parallel universe, the same and yet very different.

Maybe the fear amongst booksellers is that readers won’t be able to identify with him, and yet he feels the same emotions, makes the same mistakes, experiences the same satisfaction that any investigative journalist might feel hunting down major fraud in a large national charity. Eyes of the Blind isn’t a minority interest novel about the life of a blind man, it’s a mainstream, page-turning conspiracy thriller in which the main character happens to be blind.

For me, Niall’s eye condition adds a level of jeopardy to his investigation because his targets have the benefit of the fifth sense that he lacks.
I pay tribute to Matthew Smith at Urbane Publications for wanting to bring Niall to the world despite that institutional reticence. I hope, in the end, we will prove their fears groundless.

The Books
In Eyes of the Blind, a young woman waits nervously for a ground breaking operation that will enable her to see for the first time in her life. Niall Burnet, VI journalist, looking for a story around the financing of the operation, discovers something far worse than illicit money changing hands. High-ups at the charity that has put up most of the cash for the surgery have taken steps to ensure that the operation is a failure, having calculated that a series of heroic failed attempts will bring more publicity, and therefore more donated income, than a success. His pursuit of them leads him into a world of sordid sex parties, and into the arms of the young woman, Miranda Leman, whose new eyesight is so fragile and threatened. Together they battle to bring the truth to light.

In Blind Justice (published July 2018), what starts as an undercover investigation into the financing of a small disabled sports charity leads Niall into the dangerous world of performance-enhancing drugs produced and marketed on an international scale. Again the trail takes him to some unexpected places and he finds he has to face the challenge of taking up golf in order to hunt down the people at the heart of the trade. At the same time, old enemies from the eye transplant case continue to threaten his and Miranda’s lives.

AT
Alex Tresillian 
Authors links:
Via Urbane: https://urbanepublications.com/book_author/alex-tresillian/
Twitter: @Alex_Tresillian

About Alex…
Alex Tresillian grew up in rural Oxfordshire. He has worked in the theatre, museums, catering and education in places across Britain, Abu Dhabi and Beirut, where he was the uncredited author of two series of English Language textbooks – grammar and writing – used in countries as disparate as Egypt, Pakistan and the USA. His enthusiasms are his wife, his family, his garden, ruined castles and deserted beaches.