I am so grateful to Goodreads and @littlebookcafe for my copy of ‘What Milo Saw’. It is out in paperback on 13th August 2015, published by Sphere.
Nine year old Milo has retinitis pigmentosa so that he only has pin prick vision, but this doesn’t prevent him from seeing what most people miss. He also has a dad who has run off with his Tart and a new baby, a mum Sandy who is eating Hobnobs as if they are going out of fashion, a supposedly tea cup pig, Hamlet, and a great gran Lou who needs serious looking after. When Lou has to go in a home, Milo’s world shifts beyond his control. But Milo is not like other children and fights back.
‘What Milo Saw’ is a terrific book. Apart from one or two passages referring to sexual activity, initially I though it was a more of a young adult novel (and that’s not a criticism), but soon realised the simplicity of the language is artfully designed to convey life from Milo’s child-like perspective and to present surprisingly difficult themes in a completely accessible way. Despite loads of humour, ‘What Milo Saw’ is actually a terrifying portrait of how we sometimes treat our elderly and what may lie ahead for all of us. It also makes us question our responses to children, marriage, relationships and people who are different or from different countries. The nature of authority is brought into sharp focus from Milo’s point of view.
All the characters are completely believable, even the villainous Nurse Thornhill, so that they are more like people we know rather than characters in a novel. Milo is so well portrayed I wanted to hug him. I don’t much like children and often find them written badly or inconvincingly, but Milo is perfect. He is bright, sulky and devious but with a heart very firmly in the right place. He reminds me so much of a boy I used to teach who had tunnel vision. Given that I have eye problems myself, I think this might be why I found Virginia MacGregor’s writing so affecting and effective. I could empathise totally with Milo. I also have elderly relatives determined not to go into a care home so that reading ‘What Milo Saw’ felt utterly real and convincing.
There is a fast paced plot which is extremely well resolved. Without giving it away, it is as if Milo is let down by almost every adult he meets and this is what makes him such a glorious character – he doesn’t give in.
I am finding it hard to define exactly why, but I found Virginia MacGregor’s writing touching, emotional and wonderful. I laughed and cried along with Milo. I’d defy anyone reading ‘What Milo Saw’ not to love this little boy and his attempts to rescue Gran from her inadequate care home. It feels as if Milo is a little bit like Fredrik Backman’s Ove, but as he might have been as a boy. I loved them both.