We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster

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We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A moving, enlightening book that manages to both entertain and break one's heart, We Used to Be Kings tackles incredibly serious issues with style and emotion, challenging thoughts and provoking discussion.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 978-0099584193

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Tom and Jack are 18 today. Not that they have much cause for celebration - stuck in a home for troubled children, they are constantly examined and questioned by doctors, when all they want is to be left alone to live life together.

Only Jack is dead. Tom, caught in a mire of fear, grief and confusion, talks to his brother constantly - to him, Jack is alive and inside his head. All Jack and Tom want is to leave the home, but the only way they can do that is if Tom loses Jack for good, and truly says goodbye to the brother who died six years before...

Mental Illness is always a tricky subject to write about - it affects everybody who suffers it in a myriad of different ways, and is often an intensely personal experience. To delve into the mind of, not only someone with mental illness, but a teenager stuck in a cycle of grief and anguish, is a brave job - especially in a debut novel!

Thankfully Stewart Foster has crafted a wonderful story - and his style is such that the reader does not feel at all led or repeatedly provoked by the problems that Tom faces, but instead learns to understand, and eventually it is impossible to not join Tom in the grief he feels.

I may be making We Used to Be Kings sound like an utterly miserable book, but that is not the case at all, and the interaction between the two boys can be very funny indeed, and it is a huge credit to the author that within a chapter or two the different voices become extremely easy to distinguish between. The vivid imagination of Tom still manages to give very separate personalities to the two boys, and it is easy to tell that one is a child of 10, and the other an almost man at 18. The interactions between the two - one allowed to grow, the other stuck in an eternal youth, are the core and heart of the book, and anyone familiar with young brothers will no doubt relate to the squabble, teasing and yet fierce devotion that often come out of it.

Style is one thing some may have issues with - the whole book is composed of the thoughts of the two boys (albeit with some brief and charming reminders of their childhood), and so takes some getting used to, but once over that, this is an easy and enjoyable read that explores fascinating issues in a moving and thought provoking manner.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

In a very similar vein, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer is an excellent read and a very impressive debut that deals with sensitive issues in a thoughtful and gently provoking manner

Buy We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster at Amazon.com.


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