Simon's Bookcase

Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe


Shtum: Jem Lester, June 24—30, 2016

My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊

ShtumBen Jewell narrates Shtum. He is the father of a severely autistic son, Jonah, who is mute and doubly incontinent. Ben and his wife, Emma, launch a tribunal appealing the Local Authority’s decision not to send Jonah to the specialist school of their choice, and Emma sends Ben and Jonah to live with Ben’s father, telling him single fathers are generally more successful in appeal.

Though Lester has an autistic child of his own, he does not deal with the subject matter well. Despite many studies and consistent advice that disabled characters in books shouldn’t be mere plot devices to educate the rest of the cast, or poor souls who just experience the events of the plot, in Shtum that’s exactly how it is. In his attempts to be “gritty” or “real”, Lester reverts to casting Jonah as a punishment, a burden and a problem that needs to be solved.

Much more interesting is the dynamic between Ben and his father; a relationship that has been strained and (hints at) estranged for many years. Living together suddenly, they must confront their attitudes to parenting, family and life. The willingness of Ben’s father to bond with Ben’s son, cutting him out, is tensely written and the step forward/step back nature of their relationship is compelling.

It’s far from a perfect book, but as an exploration of fatherhood, Shtum has some interesting layers amongst its able-bodied cast. Subtlety would trump shock value, and other relationships (including Ben and Emma) need further development, bug there is nevertheless a message trying to get through.


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This entry was posted on June 30, 2016 by in 3 star and tagged .

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@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare