This week I downloaded two Kindle books written by Ben Hatch (the author of the 2011 Kindle bestseller, ‘Are We There Yet?’ about a family travelling around Britain to write a travel guide).
The first, and the one I am reviewing here, was ‘The P45 diaries’. This was originally published under another title, but it did not get the publicity it needed or deserved on publication and so Ben Hatch has recently published it on Kindle slightly revised and with this new title. Here is what I thought of it.
This is a very funny, engrossing and ultimately moving book. 18 year old Jay spends his days crank-calling BBC related celebrities using his father’s contact book (his father is a BBC Controller, working long hours and coming home to make chicken curries and pour himself ‘stingers’).
Jay is magnificently dysfunctional, getting and losing a series of dead end jobs in ways that made me laugh out loud. There was something noble about him mopping the floor in McDonalds, then being reprimanded for using too much water, and the character’s private thoughts about his bosses and colleagues are cruelly perceptive and very, very funny. He has not recovered from the harrowing illness and death of his mother to cancer, this becomes increasingly clear as the novel progresses. He messes up his jobs, his relationship and even his friendship with his friend Sean, who is as confused as he is. The book references ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ for good reason, a clever nod to another alienated young man.
Jay’s father is a lovely character. As his exasperation grows his love for his son does not diminish, and despite his flaws and vulnerability and temper we see he is only doing his best in his own grief and that he really does know best, for example with regards to Jay’s younger brother Charlie’s need for structure. This is the wonderful thing about this book, Ben Hatch manages to show the nuances… that Jay is to blame for much of his own misfortune… that his father is doing his best… that life is just shitty sometimes.
At times side-splittingly funny, at times so sad you are close to tears as you read, this book manages to maintain a small, strong flame of hope and faith in humanity that makes the ending, while necessarily inconclusive, surprisingly uplifting. A gem of a book.
The book is only 99p on Kindle right now, which is in my view a real bargain. Buy it!