“ Author: Kathy Lette / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 April 2013 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: The Boy Who Fell to Earth / ISBN 13: 9780552776820 / ISBN 10: 0552776820 / Alternative EAN: 9780593060834 „
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First things first, though this book is in some ways about "the Boy", Merlin, who just happens to have autism, primarily it's the story of Lucy his mother, her struggle against the system, her ups and downs, and, this being a light read in the chick lit vein despite some of the subject matter, her loves.
I'm not the mum to a child who is on the autistic spectrum, as the author is, but nonetheless found from my experience of working with and knowing children who have Aspergers or are autistic, that Merlin was a well rounded, believable and likeable character who wasn't as cliched as "Rainman" and importantly came over as an individual first and a diagnosis second. Seeing the world in this book through his mother's eyes as you followed him growing up for 16 years made for an interesting story. Lucy, his mother, finds out the hard way that the ignorance that surrounds autism can even start with those closest to you; when Merlin is diagnosed it's not long before her husband Jeremy takes off and she discovers that "the system" is somewhat stacked against her and that nothing will be clear cut from Merlin's education to her love life.
This all sounds rather heavy subject matter, but there were plenty of moments of light relief in the story as well as some real tear jerking moments too. The biggest truth I found in the book is the fact that parents with a child with autism do have to find themselves being the child's advocate - I'd like to think there are not too many Headteachers as stupid or ignorant as those we meet in the book, but exaggerated or not there's no doubt that Lette is well placed to show the battles that having a child who is different from the norm entail, and does so in a non-preachy and sometimes humorous way. If you have read any more works from this author then you know what to expect - her language and the sex scenes are both colourful at times, but as long as you read this not expecting anything other than a Lette book which just happens to feature a character with autism, you won't be disappointed.
The "love interest" aspect of the book is one that worked less well for me than the relationship between Merlin and Lucy; from Jeremy the upper-middle class father of Merlin who left when the going got tough and who just happens to have the most odious mother in the world, to Archie Lucy's flamboyant Australian lodger and unlikely suitor, the male characters were rather stereotypical and one dimensional at times, however I could forgive this because it's refreshing to read a book featuring someone with a developmental disability who was quite so endearing and realistic. That said you shouldn't read this book to read up on autism, but rather if you have enjoyed other titles from this author or are looking for a non-taxing read; it's chick lit not social commentary. Other reviews that I have read have said, somewhat rightly, that some of the one liners in the book get a bit much at times but ultimately this book kept my interest until the end and I enjoyed it.
This book was published in March 2012 and read by me as part of the Amazon vine programme - it's currently available for £8.14 in hard back format of £6.49 on kindle.