Not Thomas by Sarah Gethin.

Book Review by Cari Mayhew.

This is such a sad story I often struggled to bring myself to read it.  The novel is written as if it were a true story told by the central character, 5-year-old Tomos.  Tomos has just moved in with his birth mother, following a long period of foster care which came to an end when the foster parent died.

The language with which it’s written, is very much like that of its protagonist, with common wording, present tense, short sentences, and childlike enthusiasm clearly conveyed.  In spite of this, you may argue it’s not necessarily easy to read, as I shall explain.

At the beginning of the book, the neglect endured by Tomos is more commonplace, such as: occasionally having crisps instead of a cooked meal, making do with a removable ladder to on and off his bed, and his mum missing his nativity play.  Later a teacher spots there’s an issue and starts bringing food and uniform for him to school.

However, after each let-down, the author must have thought “Right, what’s the worst thing that can happen next?”  By the end of the book, there’s a rape, an arrest, and a murder.  Eventually, the teacher forges a rescue of sorts for Tomos, but things may never be the same again for poor Tomos.

Reading a book where the dialogue is in my own Welsh valley dialect made the story feel all the more real to me.  In the first half of the book, the dialogue amongst the adults provides more depth, context, and complexity to the story, which would otherwise only be hinted at.

In the end, it’s the realism of the story that makes it such a hard read.

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