My latest beach read was “Not Thomas” by Sara Gethin, a book I had long on my tbr list but had not been able to get to.
It is the very moving tale of Tomos, son of a drug addicted mother and an almost unknown father. It is told not only from a/ the child’s prespective, but also from a very likeable and innocent perspective, helped by Tomos’s exceptional good manners.
The story takes place between Christmas and Easter with lots of side characters that fill in the story and provide a complete picture of the issues the characters encounter, e.g. background stories, nuances and redeeming factors.
You get the feel of a children’s book at times, but some of the horrifying events are clearly not suitable for kids, even though the worst parts aren’t described in detail. An adult reader will still be able to imagine them.
The story follows dramatic and heart breaking episodes as Tomos’s life unravels, luckily aided by some good people, lovely characters that you’ll adore for their compassion and saintly deeds.
The book demonstrates the complexity of the situation of child neglect and child abuse, how it’s hard to do the right thing and how doing what your instinct tells you can prolong or worsen the situation.
A very rich and stimulating read, thought provoking and clever, well written and right fully praised and short listed. Fabulous!
You can meet the author at the Llandeilo Lit Fest:
Saturday 12:30 Fountain Fine Art Gallery
Sara Gethin and Helen Jones : Dysfunctional Families in Contemporary Fiction
Helen Lewis, author of ‘The House with Old Furniture’ and Sara Gethin, author of ‘Not Thomas’, discuss creating the implosive fictional families at the centre of their debut novels, what comes first, character or plot and working with the Welsh women’s publisher, Honno Press.
Teuluoedd camweithredol yn ffuglen gyfoes
Dydd Sadwrn 28ain Ebrill-12.30 Oriel y Ffynnon.
Bydd Helen Lewis, awdur ‘The House with Old Furniture’ a Sara Gethin, awdur ‘Not Thomas’ yn trafod y teuluoedd sydd yng nghanol eu nofelau a beth sy’n dod yn gyntaf y cymeriad neu’r plot.
“The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m waiting for her to go away.
Tomos lives with his mother. He longs to return to another place, the place he thinks of as home, and the people who lived there, but he’s not allowed to see them again. He is five years old and at school, which he loves. Miss teaches him about all sorts of things, and she listens to him. Sometimes he’s hungry and Miss gives him her extra sandwiches. She gives him a warm coat from Lost Property, too. There are things Tomos cannot talk about – except to Cwtchy – and then, just before Easter, the things come to a head. There are bad men outside who want to come in, and Mammy has said not to answer the door. From behind the big chair, Tomos waits, trying to make himself small and quiet. He doesn’t think it’s Santa Claus this time.
When the men break in, Tomos’s world is turned on its head and nothing will ever be the same again”
“Heart-wrenching, captivating and beautiful… a poignant portrayal of a hostile world depicted through the eyes of a child. Gethin writes with profound depth and compassion in this exceptionally moving and powerful novel.” Caroline Busher, Irish Times best-selling author
“The ability to use sentiment without descending into sentimentality is a rare commodity. But it is something Sara Gethin does effortlessly in Not Thomas. The book is, by turns, compelling, disturbing, enthralling and both physically and emotionally draining. It is, ultimately,an up-lifting tale that is rewarding and an affirmation of the human spirit. Do not expect an easy read, even though she writes fluently with a skill that drives the reader on. Expect to cry, to run the whole gamut of emotions. This is a book that will reward any perceptive reader. It is thoroughly recommended.” Phil Carradice, writer and broadcaster
“This novel should be printed on plastic paper so that the reader’s ample tears don’t blot the paper. Sara Gethin has given us an undeniably memorable character in Tomos, a lovable boy living in the most brutal poverty and abject neglect. It also casts light into the dark shadowlands of child poverty and should act as a reprimand to those who let it continue. Yet Gethin doesn’t forget that the writer’s first job is to hook the reader with a strong story and this one really gets under the skin. A deeply convincing novel that surges with emotion and compassion in equal measure.” Jon Gower, author, producer and former BBC Wales arts & media correspondent
“Sara Gethin’s use of simple language, clipped sentences, and repetition assist in creating a very believable and natural-sounding child’s voice… The narrative pace is quick, at times breathless, as one would expect from a lively and care-deprived child, and it contributes to a thoroughly engaging page-turner. Sara Gethin, with her impressive range of writing skills, takes us to a tragic place, a bleak corner of messed-up lives and hopelessness, but she also shows us the warm spirit of human light that can break through such darkness.” –Peter Thabit Jones, Poet and dramatist
Sara Gethin is the pen-name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and studied Religion and Ethics in Western Thought at St. David’s University, Lampeter. She has worked as a childminder, an assistant in a children’s library and a primary school teacher. She writes for children as Wendy White, and her first book Welsh Cakes and Custard won the Tir nan-Og Award in 2014. She has two grown-up children and, while home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time across the water in Dublin. Not Thomas is published by Honno
Sara Gethin said:
Thank you so much for your very thoughtful review, Christoph – and thank you for reading Not Thomas on holiday. I’m so glad you liked little Tomos.
I can’t wait for Llandeilo Lit Fest in April – Helen and I caught up over lunch again yesterday to chat about our session. We’re really looking forward to it!