Shtum is a book I was approved from NetGalley, and was one of those ‘I’m going to request this book because it is highly recommended by a lot of people even though I’m not really sure I’m going to enjoy it’ books. I was wrong. I’m am very pleased I decided to request this book, and actually go through with the reading of it, because it was something special!
Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:
About The Book
‘Shtum’ by Jem Lester
Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.
Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.
When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.
A powerful, emotional, but above all enjoyable read, perfect for fans of THE SHOCK OF THE FALL and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.
Shtum is a contemporary novel which follows issues such as disability, psychology and family struggle. The book is told from the point of view of Ben, the father of severely autistic Jonah. After faking a separation to aid Jonah’s educational tribunal case to get him into a more suitable school, father and son go to live with Georg, Ben’s father. Three generations of male in one house, living around and trying to put up with each other. The events that happen in the story are laid out to the reader as they happen, and the main climax is certainly unpredictable; neither the reader nor the characters know how it is going to turn out, because the situation is so realistic. The ending caught me off guard a bit, although it was a nice wrap up and calm down from the climax of the tribunal case. Shtum is fast paced, there is never a dull moment, and the author has clearly done a lot of research for logical and accurate representations of the characters and the situations.
Character wise, I think it is easier to empathise with Ben, as he is narrating the events, but both Jonah and Georg are very well thought out characters and, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of research must have gone into the book to create those characters. Not only is the storyline realistic enough, but the characters were also popping off the pages here, there and everywhere, they were just so unique and so well developed they could have been standing in front of me.
There is a constant guessing game through Shtum, as with real life events, you never know what turn something is going to take until someone tells you, which is exactly what happened with the tribunal case. It was impossible to know the outcome until the letter came through to Ben. My favourite part of the book, however, was when Ben took the stand in the court to say his bit about caring for Jonah. I though this was very insightful, both in the nature of the book and for the reader to better understand Jonah’s feelings. This was written particularly well, probably, again, through extensive research of living with autism and autistic children. I will say that a scene towards the end of the book did make me cry, but I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling it for you all!
This was a such a gripping story which taught me so much about a lot of things, but was particularly insightful about living and dealing with autism around you and the struggles some people go through in life. Shtum made me a lot more understanding, but also grateful, and, for me, it is a highly recommended read!
My Rating: 4.5 Muffins out of 5
Where To Buy
If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):
Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)