The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publishing Date: 19th April 2018
Source: Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 320
Genre: General Fiction
Whatever happens to those kids at school who are always being tipped to be stars in adult life?
It’s a question all of us find ourselves asking at some time and Mike Gayle’s powerful, poignant novel answers it with regard to Danny Morgan and James McManus – rivals for top honours in everything throughout their school years in Birmingham.
Whatever their friends and teachers might have expected, neither Danny nor James is currently running the country.
Depressed and unemployed, Danny is facing an ultimatum from his girlfriend Maya: if he doesn’t get out and get a job, she’s leaving.
It was an accident that changed James’s life and now he is looked after affectionately by his parents. But his sister Martha believes that the role of full-time carers is destroying their lives – and infantilising her brother.
She suggests that James should go into a respite home while her parents take a break.
The respite home, as it turns out, where Danny has just got a job.
What is the path that has brought these two people to this unexpected place, and where will it take them next?
This is the story of Danny and James, but also of the families who love them and of the women they love. It is a story of many surprising twists, by turns funny and sad, painful and uplifting, and marks a brilliant new stage in the writing career of one of Britain’s favourite novelists.
Having been a great fan of Mike Gayle since reading his first novel “My Legendary Girlfriend” I am always impatiently waiting for his new release. This time he let us wait long but it was worth the wait, as I think that “The Man I Think I Know” must be his best novel yet. Mike Gayle has always been a champion of writing about relationships but this time he’s opted for a different one, this of a friendship, and still he pulled it off completely, delivering a fantastic, emotional and realistic story. I had a feeling that few of Mike Gayle’s last books were a little different in tone but this book seems like a new direction – it’s mature, it’s powerful yet it still reads like other books by this author.
Mike Gayle’s writing style stays the same – it’s full of humour but also down to earth, chatty and easy to follow. His characters are always brilliantly developed and it’s the same here with Danny and James, as well as the other background characters. The friendship described in this story sounds realistic and true, both characters are genuine in what they’re doing and how they communicate. They are believable. They made mistakes, they’re not perfect, they have better and worse moments which only made them more true to life.
It is also one of the most unlikely friendships taking into consideration all the circumstances: how Danny and James got to know each other and how they met again after all those years. The story is told in alternative point of views and it was a great way to tell it. With their stories, they just pull you in deeper and deeper and I quickly found myself falling for them both and found both stories incredibly interesting and captivating. I was waiting for the big reveal and when it came I didn’t feel disappointed, like it often happens when you’re waiting for something holding your breath and then it feels so meh. No, it lived up to my expectations and the only thing that bothered me a little and left me a bit disappointed was the ending, guys, I’d love a little bit more, but it was the only thing, other than that I loved this story.
The things the characters are forced to deal with, those many things in their lives are true to life, and the way they’re dealt with is realistic, relatable and believable. The author offers also a very deep and detailed insight into a life with ABI – acquired brain injury and I loved the way it was dealt with, with tons of understanding and subtlety but without pitying. With his words, he touches upon the right heart – strings.
“The Man I Think I Know” is a book about second chances and personal growths. It’s heart – warming and uplifting, as well as poignant and moving. I drank this story in with my whole being, I didn’t want to miss a single word. A bittersweet, realistic tale about family dynamics, love and second chances with enough drama, fun and charming romance that I highly, highly recommend!