Review – My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal
Audiobook Duration: 7 hours and 51 minutes:
Narrator: Lenny Hill
Source: Libby app
Oh the way this starts so gentle with the birth of a baby belies what Leon’s observations reveals.
His mum has just given birth to a baby, Leon has never met the father of his new brother. Leon is mixed race and is there signs of neglect already when his mum Carole prioritises having a cigarette before giving the newborn his first bottle of milk.
It is easy to judge to Carole particularly when seen through Leon’s eyes. But the more you get to know Leon, the more you know Carole and realise that she just wasn’t suited for the life she was living. There was no way given her capabilities, mental health issues and lack of support that she could have been successful at being a single parent to two boys. One of whom was biracal with all the additional issues that would bring in Birmingham in the ’80’s
If she was plucked into 2021 Carole would have made it on to Googlebox or Love Island or been an influencer. She would have taken her good looks and made an actual go it. Could have translated into the Mummy Diaries or something similar. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and what we are left with is a cracking read.
This is a hard watch of what neglect can look like and how it is easily be overlooked or hidden until the consequences are severe. It also illustrates that the need for family, for connections to a community is a driving force. Due to Carole’s breakdown, Leon is eventually fostered with his brother Jake and for a short time this idyllic set up where there is nurturing and love is home. This brief tranquil period is a respite from all both brothers had been through.
Jake is adopted and Leon is not. What follows is how Leon learns to deal with that reality.
We see him questioning his family, identity and community which is painful but also uplifting. Leon gets to widen his horizons and begins to interact with a variety of different people.
I will say that the depiction of West Indian life, language and behaviour were true to life, ones that I could relate to.
And that is where I will leave it, because dear reader, I want you if possible to have the same experience I did. I knew nothing about this book or author and didn’t read any reviews prior to starting it. And for that I’m grateful, it made me relish the story even more with every new revelation.
Apparently My Name is Leon is being made into a BBC series . I shall look forward to how well this story and its themes translate onto screen. Particularly as the producer is Lenny Henry who narrated this story so well.
Book Club addition. This was a hit for everyone, and a great discussion was had. What I took from this was much different to other members who focused on the neglect. I saw more of the stranger in a stranger land scenario, trying to fit in, trying to find a home.
4 Stars - Really Liked It