Longlisted for the 2017 Guardian Not the Booker Prize
Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.
When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?
Narcissism for Beginners is a fresh, witty and humane take on the struggle to make sense of growing up.
You know when you see a Book jacket and just KNOW that it’s going to be your kind of book? Well Narcissism For Beginners was exactly that for me.
I love original and quirky reads and I was desperate to get started with this book where Sonny uncovers his past as soon as it came through my letterbox.
I often avoid books thst other people label as “quirky” as this can often mean that they are jarring and hard to pigeonhole, but Narcissm For Beginners belongs in a category all of its own as it is so original and appealing.
Sonny is a fantastic creation and he definitely springs to life off the page. It’s safe to say that he’s had a pretty unique upbringing – between his unorthodox father, millionaire guardian and early years in the Brazilian commune – but all that aside, as a reader I really believed in him. He’s got to be met on the page to really understand what a unique character he is!
The fact that’s he does not feel that he really belongs anywhere was a fascinating one and I think this could be very thought provoking if you have a book group as Sonny’s quest to understand who exactly he is will be something many people can relate to, even though their childhood might be a lot more sedate than Sonny’s very colourful one…
Sonny’s journey around Britain – including to my beloved Scotland- is both a literal and metaphorical one as he has many things to deal with on his quest. At 21 years old, he has so many questions and his navigation of a new country and a new understanding of himself makes for compelling reading. I think this novel will appeal to people who enjoy a story where you’re never very sure what might happen next, but you’re happy to see where the writer takes you. I felt safe in Martine McDonagh’s hands and wanted very much to see where Sonny’s ‘Voyage of Discovery’ would take us.
Th device of the five Letters was an inspired one as it really gave Sonny’s journey a structure and with each new discovery, we start to see a different facet of Sonny and understand more about his very unique and often unbelievably complex background. I loved The Goldfinch as a novel and the sense of exploration and discovery in this novel reminded me of it at times. I read this on a sunny weekend in beautiful Perthshire and it made me think about Sonny’s travels in such an unfamiliar environment and how feeling like we belong somewhere is such an important thing to us as human beings.
Sometimes, getting away with the ones you love, a gorgeous pup and a blooming good read is just good for the soul! Treat yourself to a copy here
WRITER ON THE SHELF
Martine McDonagh was an artist manager in the music industry for 30 years and now leads the Creative Writing & Publishing MA at West Dean College, Sussex. This is her third novel, following I Have Waited, and You Have Come and After Phoenix.
Thanks so much to Anne Cater for nviting me on this Unbound blog tour. I will definitely be recommending it to some of my young readers at school who like something a little left field to read as I know they’re going to love it.