Monday, 30 July 2018

The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle

This is a novel about a friendship between two people whose lives have been derailed by misfortune. James de Witt and Danny Allen were in the same year at their prestigious boys’ school – Danny a scholarship boy, unlike James whose well-do-do family have been students there for generations. Both boys were highly talented and expected to make their mark on the world. Now in their thirties, the two meet up at Four Oaks care home.

Danny is a carer at the home, a new recruit on his final warning from the Job Centre. A terrible tragedy for which he felt he was to blame sent Danny into despair and alcoholism, and he has never been able to hold down a job for any time after that. His relationship with live-in girlfriend, Maya, is on the rocks, but he seems unable to pick himself up and fix his life.

James made a fortune in property development, but sold up to run for Parliament. On the night he won a bi-election, he was punched in the head by an angry young lout and his life has never the same. Looked after at home by his parents, James spends his time watching DVDs and disengages from the world, until his sister persuades his parents to take a holiday.

The novel describes the slow development of James’s and Danny’s friendship and how the two manage to be the answer to each other’s problems – James providing Danny with a home and a job, while Danny gives James a shot at independence. But they each have to address aspects of their past if they really want to turn their lives around and the story builds up plenty of tension as events occur to hamper their best efforts.

I found this novel such a breath of fresh air, dealing with that rarity in fiction: male friendship. Gayle is a wonderful writer, with real empathy for his characters – his understanding of how a person with a brain injury might think is inspired. The Man I Think I Know is a novel full of wisdom but peppered with humour, manages to be very entertaining as well.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Man I Think I Know

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