When I saw there was a blog tour happening for Louise Beech’s new book, This Is How We Are Human I was devastated not to be able to commit to participating. Life was, as ever, complicated at the time and I didn’t want to let anyone down by not fulfilling my commitment so I didn’t sign up. However, with Louise’s I Am Dust still calling to me from my TBR I was determined to read This Is How We Are Human as soon as I could. I’m delighted that I can share my review today.
Published by Orenda on 10th June 2021, This Is How We Are Human is available for purchase here.
It’s far too long since I read one of Louise’s books. Then it was one of my 2019 books of the year, Call Me Star Girl, with my review here. You’ll also find my review of How To Be Brave here and of Maria in the Moon here.
This Is How We Are Human
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.
My Review of This Is How We Are Human
Twenty year old Sebastian wants to experience sex.
I’m not entirely sure how Louise Beech performs her writing miracles, but whatever genre she chooses, whatever narrative she writes, her books are totally mesmerising. This Is How We Are Human is another absolute triumph. I could describe the wonderfully natural dialogue, the rounded and believable characters, the brilliant variety of sentence structure and the way the end of each chapter compels the reader to continue but none of that would encapsulate the fabulous quality of This Is How We Are Human or do it justice in a review.
I think it’s the compassionate presentation of humanity that makes This Is How We Are Human so special. Louise Beech understands completely, and conveys with starling and affecting accuracy, the ease with which life can turn from triumph to disaster. Violetta/Isabelle’s new role in life is only a quirk of fate away for any of us so that This Is How We Are Human touches the reader with terrifying clarity. I’m sure violation and Violetta are deliberately close in sound to help the reader appreciate the precariousness of life all the more. All the characters are so gripping to read about. In Veronica is the epitome of love, hope and despair leaving me feeling increasing compassion for her with every sentence I read about her. However, it is Sebastian who is the absolute star of This Is How We Are Human. He is so real, so witty, so simultaneously mature and childlike, so human, frustrating and charming that I totally lost sight of the fact he’s a character in a book. It’s absolutely fitting that Sebastian’s sections are written in the first person, giving him status and a voice, but also giving status and a voice to other people with his level of autism too, making This Is How We Are Human a very special book.
The plot is brilliant. Often dealing with the prosaic, increasingly dramatic as the story progresses and with a pinch of the supernatural, This Is How We Are Human ensnares the reader. I was so invested in the lives of Sebastian, Veronica and Isabelle that I could not tear myself away. Some of the themes and incidents are not easy to contemplate, but Louise Beech never sensationalises. Instead she shows her readers the truth of life, of those living on the fringes of society or of those seemingly living perfect public lives, in ways that feel so authentic and insightful that they are almost physical to encounter, making This Is How We Are Human completely arresting. The author shines a light onto the very fabric of society, our prejudices and assumptions until we do truly comprehend what it is to be human. I laughed aloud at some of the things Sebastian said, felt the utter devastation of Veronica’s reality and wept uncontrollably at Isabelle’s story. This Is How We Are Human entertained me but more than that it left me moved, affected and changed by reading it.
Not only does Louise Beech write with exquisite skill, she also imbues her words with humanity and a depth of emotion that is astounding. If you’ve never read one of her books I genuinely feel sorry for you because it’s a real privilege to do so. Do not miss This Is How We Are Human. It is unquestionably one of my books of the year. I thought it was outstanding.
About Louise Beech
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best Magazine’s Book of the Year, and was followed by a ghost-story cum psychological thriller set in a theatre, I Am Dust.
Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.