I’m not against a comic take on serious subjects, I’ll even laugh at therapy and the fragility of democracy, but I’m less amused when it runs to farce. Yet there’s no doubting the sincerity of the author, who wrote this out of her own grief at the sudden death of her mother (and writes movingly about that here). Nevertheless, I found a manic edge to the way this was addressed in the novel – and I don’t mean manic as in a zany, although that could also apply, but in the psychoanalytic term for the universal human desire to repair ourselves without feeling the depth of our hurt.
For debut novels offering a more balanced exploration of grief in young children, I recommend Claire King’s The Night Rainbow and Carys Bray’s A Song for Issy Bradley (the latter actually published by Hutchinson). For quirky old ladies, I recommend Emma Healey’s Elizabeth Is Missing and Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest. For an authentic look at the experience of grief at various stages of the life-cycle, albeit without the humour, Mary Costello’s Academy Street is hard to beat.