Title: Half a World Away
Author: Mike Gayle
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: June 2019
My Rating: 7/10 Something Missing
Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.
Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.
When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.
This book came to my attention a few weeks ago, floating around in the Instagram bookosphere. Mike Gayle is an author I’ve never read before, which intrigued me; and the endless posts of ‘You must read this! 10/10 Amazing’ drew me in further. It’s been a while since I read a book I really loved or was excited by, and so I felt this had a good chance of giving me just that. In that regard, I decided not to read (really?) into the story too much, and avoided actual reviews. I wanted a completely fresh approach.
I’ll start by saying Mike Gayle writes beautifully. Not in a showy or pretentious way, but subtly. The story is woven together nicely, and a was drawn to both characters Kerry and Noah immediately. They are both written in a very raw way – we understand who they are and why they are without it being shoved at us. Despite their flaws, I found I was rooting for both of them from the very beginning.
I was racing through the first half of the book, drinking it all in and having a great time, when the big twist is revealed. The thing we are waiting for. Spoiler – Kerry has terminal cancer. I suppose I only have myself to blame here, as I didn’t read into the premise of the story before hand, but I really dislike books about illness. Particularly terminal illness. There’s only one way it can go, and that’s ending with sadness. I think in a way, I resent being forced to be upset about a topic. I really don’t want to sound insensitive here, of course I care deeply about real life illness. I just don’t like reading about it. Dare I say it, but I feel many of the 5 star reviews for this kind of book come from people too worried about sounding insensitive. (Not to play down how good this book is overall). I really doubt I would have picked up the book in the first place had I know this would be the overriding topic.
I’m glad I did though, because I did enjoy the book overall. I enjoyed everything about it apart from that one aspect of the narrative. I’ll also say that Mike Gayle dealt with the topic respectfully and I liked (is that an appropriate word?) the way the more upsetting scenes were written.
It has meant that I can’t wait to read more by Mike Gayle (I’ve just ordered a copy of The Man I Think I Know so eyes peeled for that review when I get to it in my large lockdown TBR). I’d also 100% recommend this book to anyone who isn’t bothered by the terminal illness trope, like I am.