By Mark Watson
Rated: 5 stars *****
Contacts has so much poignancy and a great message within it for society. It is so well-written that those pages just have to keep turning to see how it ends. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the e-book.
Please follow down to the blurb and full review.
One man’s last journey. One hundred and fifty-eight chances to save his life.The unforgettable new book from award-winning writer and comedian Mark Watson – available to pre-order now!’Mark Watson is one of my favourite writers and Contacts is by far his best book yet’ Adam Kay‘Witty, emotional and beautifully written’ Jill Mansell‘It made me laugh, cry, reflect and want to check in on all my friends’ Emma Gannon ‘This is such a great book, funny and serious and daring and humane’ Richard CurtisOne man’s last journey. One hundred and fifty-eight chances to save his life.James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.
The first sentence is a real attention grabber as eyes widen because it is is the most unexpected opening line that may make readers gasp or take a sharp-intake of breath. 158 people receive a text that will shock to the core, from James who is at that time on the London to Edinburgh train.
This is a book that displays the human condition and some of societies ills incredibly well. It’s hard-hitting and essential reading, but not just a book to read and forget, it’s one of those books that are thought-provoking and will make you think about society and people more and better. It’s about lonliness, but refreshingly, not in the older generation, but the young generation. It shows an underrated topic in such a true light. The emotions are raw and authentic.
James recalls meeting Karl in 2007 and deciding he didn’t need many contacts and now he was withdrawing somewhat on a train up to Edinburgh. It’s a deep, dark book that contains the much taboo subject of suicide in some of the narrative, which makes it essential reading, along with the lonliness, because James is essentially a lonely, intelligent young man.
The book moves onto Sally Chiltern, James sister in Melbourne and Michaela Adler, an ex, in Berlin who both receive the text message and their reactions to the unexpected message and an insight into their lives. There is also an insight to Jean Chiltern, his mum in Bristol, who is informed of the text by Sally. There is then the reactions of the other people who have also looked at their phones.
The book is so current that it even goes into characters doing the Couch to 5K and having a language app. There is some humour amongst the book. It isn’t all dark and bleak.
It is heartwarming to see the kindness of people who are trying to find James and save him from certain death and each other from such lonliness and the impact that has on people. It really raises the issue that it isn’t just the elderly, so compassionately and well and within some terrific and responsible story-telling. It reminds people that there is always someone to talk to, such as the Samaritans too.
Mark Watson, having been in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and indeed a book launch does take James into Waverley Station and into the city, which is accurately depicted. I know this as I go into Edinburgh a fair bit. It leads to the end of what is an incredibly poignant story that shows an enormous amount of humanity and hope, even when things seem to be at their bleakest. It honestly is such a strong and courageous book that I feel could, if enough people read and really think about it, could feed a lot of good into society and help people talk about their issues and to think of others differently. It’s such an amazing book and one of those rare books that I don’t think will leave me any time soon.
On another note – please don’t suffer in silence. As the book alludes to, it is never too late to reach out. Here is a link to Samaritans. It is free and confidential http://www.samaritans.org