Van has finished reading…The A To Z Of You And Me by James Hannah

16 Apr

Without the Curtis Brown Book Group I’m not sure I’d have gone for James Hannah’s The A To Z Of You And Me. I’m very glad I did. I’d say this is up near the top of the list of books Curtis Brown have so far sent my way – and that’s a strong list. The title is apposite. Regardless of the type of book it might suggest, having read it I’d defy you to come up with a better one.

That central premise. Ivo is dying (I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling you this). He’s been given a task to distract him: work through the alphabet and think of a part of the body and then link a memory to it. What James Hannah has managed is to keep the story prominent, to keep it always stepping forwards, to use that structure in the best possible way. It never felt to me like the shoehorn had come out to make something fit, or that a letter had been filled in because it had to be. And let’s go back to that title. Here’s where its power lies because we are as much made of our memories as we are our flesh and blood. And of course our memories range well beyond the scope of our own bodies. Listen to any couple talking about themselves and it’s plain to see that first person plural doesn’t really feel like plural. It’s the anatomy of a family that we see laid bare, the anatomy of friendships, the anatomy love – all the things that make Ivo who he is. Sometimes a pair separated leaves less than half behind.

Ivo gives no excuses for the course his life took and that’s refreshing too. Though I could feel the shaping of the person he became in his childhood recollections there was no sense of ‘this happened and was inevitable because of that’. Decisions are, or perhaps at least sometimes feel close to arbitrary (although James Hannah’s control over the action is anything but). It’s refreshingly dry too where it could well have been bogged down with soggy sentimentality. Don’t get me wrong, there may well be tears when you read it – I had a couple of moments, though I think Rabbit Hayes may have hardened me for a while yet.

I think, really, you’ve got to read this one. The characters are vivid, the story captivating and the delivery is quite something. There’s a good chance it’ll be in my top three for the year and unless it’s an exceptional second half it’s a shoe-in for top five.

2 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The A To Z Of You And Me by James Hannah”


  1. The Inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group – my first six months as a #CBBookGroupie | vanisreading - 01/07/2015

    […] The A to Z Of You And Me by James Hannah […]

  2. The #CBBookGroupie playlist | vanisreading - 09/02/2016

    […] Ivo & Mia’s Theme, The A to Z of You & Me […]

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