|What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Nine-year-old Milo may be on his way to total blindness but he sees more than most adults. So he's on a mission to free his Gran with or without grown up assistance. This is such a lovely, touching tale it's hard not to fall in love.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: July 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Milo is 9 years old and slowly going blind. He lives with his Mum, his Gran and Hamlet the pet pig but not Dad. Milo's Dad lives in Abu Dhabi because Dad made The Tart pregnant. One day, once the emergency services go away, Mum breaks it to Milo that Gran can't live with them anymore and has to go into a home. It doesn't end there though. Milo is on a mission; he and Hamlet will bring Gran back. It's a bit of a difficult mission for a 9-year-old and pig to accomplish alone though so first he needs to convince at least one adult. Good luck Milo!
Two years ago teacher of high-fallutin literature, Virginia Macgregror, told her husband that she would rather be read by lots and lots of people than win literary prizes. Well, on the evidence of this her first adult novel, Virginia may soon realise that the two aren't mutually exclusive. However, this novel isn't without its controversy…
Virginia has written some YA books in the past and a couple of reviewers have leapt on that to suggest that Milo reads like a children's book. To my mind that misses the point slightly. This is indeed a child's story but only in as much as it's narrated by a child. The reader actually needs to be an adult in order to draw all the additional dimensions from it that originate from life experience children won't yet understand.
Milo himself is a heart-melter who can't understand the shades of grey in the complex decisions that grown-ups face. This is worsened by his discoveries ensuring that, while we understand his mother's viewpoint, we're totally on the child's side.
Virginia's use of retinitis pigmentosa as Milo's disability is interesting. It's a rare condition that will eventually cause Milo to be one of the 6% of visual disabled who are completely blind. Although Milo's a little young for the diagnosis (it's normally spotted during puberty/teenage) Virginia has done her homework. The story contains some insightful moments, including one highlighting the most frustrating things for the disabled in general – misplaced assumptions about their abilities.
Milo is put at the front of the classroom so he can 'see the board better' by a well-meaning teacher who doesn't realise that the pin-prick of vision he has left benefits from distance. (My husband – visually impaired – will share his rant about that on request!)
In a Curious Incident of the Dog kind of way Milo's literal take on his situation raises some smiles while we realise he's one of the most sensible people in the novel.
The other guy who has his head screwed on correctly is Tripi, the care home's illegal immigrant chef whose only ambition in life is bringing his kid sister safely over from Syria. Yes, this is a novel that's unafraid of topicality on more than one front, this being just one of the human stories with which the Forget-Me-Not Care Home and our reading are enriched. But it's not all about Milo, Hamlet and Tripi.
Sandy, the aforementioned mother, is falling apart as she tries to cope with her husband's affair. Yes, the affair resulting in him leaving her for 'The Tart' and, ultimately 'Their Baby'. Meanwhile Gran Lou (his mother) is a canny, marvellously cantankerous old stick who realises that, in Sandy's mental absence, Milo is doing way too much. Her solution to the situation may be a little drastic but it gets her where she wants to be, although not existing in the manner that she (or anyone else) would want.
I found myself a little dubious to begin with about McCloud, the mysterious lodger, and his convenient profession. However that didn't stop me devouring pages, cheering, laughing and sobbing like a complete softy so I think it's safe to deduce from that that it doesn't matter!
Indeed, perhaps I should finish this review with a worthy line wistfully wishing we had child-like vision? On second thoughts the pile of soggy, mascara soaked tissues and the laughter-spurted-coffee-stains on the book probably act as a better advert. Yes, this is a wonderful read but remember to prepare your area first!
(Thank you so much, Sphere, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If the charm of a young-person-narrated book appeals The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is probably the most famous in modern literature. If you've read that or weren't impressed, try the differently great The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.
You can read more book reviews or buy What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor at Amazon.com.
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