Posted 20 hours ago

Contacts: From the award-winning comedian, the most heartwarming, touching and funny fiction book

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The main characters were all people with their good and bad points, and despite the subject matter there was some quite good humour. It was highly emotional but difficult topics were tackled very sensitively and some well placed funny moments helped to keep the tone far lighter than expected. Or perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about and people will read it and consider the futility of a life-lost and the transitory nature of some of our problems. Ending with an unexpected sting in the tail, there was at least one other character I’d have liked to get to know better but that much is still left unresolved is an apt way to conclude this honest journey through one man’s darkest hours. It’s impossible to ignore the paradoxical nature of mobile phones and modern technology that can both increase self inflicted isolation or else provide our only means of communicating with a world that to all intents and purposes has temporarily shut down.

I found this book similar in style to Eleven by Mark Watson, where there is a lot of additional unnecessary and boring information thrown into what is a great idea.

One aspect of Contacts that I enjoyed was the use of technology as a force for good; building a safety net around James even as he travels north completely unaware of what is unfolding across the globe from Berlin to Melbourne.

This poignant statement, for whatever reason really struck a chord with me, a weary acceptance that he’s come to the end of a long travelled road, all avenues apparently exhausted. Clearly everyone else seems to love this book, so this is just a suggestion if you are feeling vulnerable - and I am certainly not against tackling the very important subject of suicide in fiction.Though in the mind of someone suicidal, the other viewpoints could also be read as more "that'll teach them, let me get my revenge this way, I want them to feel this scared and guilty" or "that's the way to get people to treat me better/appreciate me more" points in favor of suicide/suicide threats. And he doesn’t wallow in the victim mentality – as in, they’ll all feel bad and that’ll show them, but touches on it by thinking about the impact it will have. James is a wonderful creation, someone pushed to the very limits and doing something incredibly extreme. We see snippets of his childhood, the fun times with his sister, his love for his Dad, the dreams of conquering the world when working in a start-up company with his buddy Karl, how he met his partner Michaela. And yes, it's great that James changed his mind in the end, or had it changed for him by circumstances, but he didn't really change his mind in the sense that he doesn't acknowledge how much of an ass he was and that he hasn't ruled out getting back to his plan in the future.

At —- he boards the sleeper train, texts all 156 contacts in his phone to say goodbye, switches it off and settles in for the journey to Edinburgh where he’ll end his life.Having reached the age of forty, he's an eeny bit overweight and feeling more than a little disillusioned. The end of the book doesn't acknowledge the people who helped him, even his friend who is with him after he doesn't kill himself. It’s a terrifying thought at its core but the regular flashbacks to revisit happier moments in James’ life means we get respite from the horror of what’s unfolding.

And I was surprised that despite my anger at the main character, the further I got into the book the more it managed to also make me feel sympathetic towards him and put aside my anger. His relationship has broken down and his sister, who lives in Melbourne, hasn’t spoken to him for years after an argument turned into a grudge. The big plus for this book is that, at least in my experience, it will make you rethink how you interact with others and you may learn to be a slightly kinder person. James Chiltern is embarking on his final journey, uncomfortably holed up in a cell like cabin on the London to Edinburgh sleeper train. One of Mark Watson's previous novels, Eleven, is counted amongst my favourites and I enjoy both his humour and his writing.The question of who takes responsibility for James’ predicament, who decides to do something proactive and who excuses themselves from the responsibility, all this is masterfully explored by Watson.

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