Today’s team review is from Alex.
Alex has been reading This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin
As part of Rosie Amber’s review team, I saw this book on her list and was intrigued by it. The following is my own, honest opinion.
I thought I’d like this book, which is why I chose it. I was prepared for it to be a bit ‘twee’ but worthy of at least 3*. This one is a definite 5* for me. I loved it.
The story is written entirely from the perspective of seven-year-old Huxley and the author has done a superb job of capturing his mannerisms, thoughts and behaviour. Anyone familiar with this age group will acknowledge how closely observed these things are and Gail Aldwin has managed to synthesise the essence of Huxley in a way that’s believable, funny and very, very touching.
Huxley is a ‘lonely only’. He’s desperate for a sibling and feels an outsider at school. His quick brain and love of puns often annoy his class teacher and there were instances when I felt anger on his behalf when the adults in his life behaved badly towards him.
What appeals so much about him as a character is his innate goodness. He knows it’s wrong to do ‘picking-on’ of people, whether it’s in the school yard or on the street, by children or adults, and is prepared to stand up to bullies – even those much older and bigger than him. Some of the adults in his life judge people by appearances but his innocence cuts through this prejudice.
There are several plotlines and tension is created through Huxley trying to make sense of the world without an adult’s filter of experience. We feel the same anxiety, confusion and anger that he does but have a perspective that makes sense of some of his misunderstandings. We don’t have the full picture, though – just his take on it – and this can rack up that tension as we wait to find out the full picture.
Huxley has a silly, boisterous side that rang completely true but he’s also a sensitive soul. Sad feelings ‘let my heart get sore’, he knows from the ‘squiggles’ on his father’s forehead that he has worries in there, and when his mother falls out with someone ‘It sounds like a friendship has broken’. He does what he can to make things better. The pace of the story never lags and I read this in one sitting. I’ll not give away any spoilers but suffice it to say that there’s some mysteries to solve and a growing sense of threat. The characters are finely drawn and distinctive and there were times when I wanted to join in with Huxley’s fun, sympathised (and recognised the behaviour!) when he was uncooperative because of perceived injustice, and there were other moments when I wanted to hug him and buy him a large strawberry milkshake.
I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.
Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?
Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.