My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal is a marvellous debut novel that mesmerised me from the start.
The setting is Birmingham in 1981. I grew up near Birmingham so I know it well. Lots of memories from that time were ignited by the novel. I remember the hype around Charles and Diana’s wedding as well as the race riots. The novel had a very familiar feel to it for me.
The story is magnificently told from the point of view of nine year old Leon. We see the world through his eyes. It is a heart wrenching read as he and his baby brother end up in foster care but his brother white and is adopted. Leon is mixed race and isn’t. The reader feels his pain as his family is torn apart. We understand his anger and his fear of rejection, and his desire to find his brother.
There are kind hearts within the novel who try to bring out the best in Leon, fighting his corner and showing him kindness.
Allotments are part of the British landscape. Like-minded people come together through their shared love of growing veg and flowers. It is a diverse community that is welcoming. The lost and the wandering in life come together to heal and to pour love into gardening.
The 1981 race riots in Birmingham were scary. Kit de Waal has perfectly captured the atmosphere of terror.
My Name Is Leon will break your heart for young Leon who is troubled, likable and lovable. Kit de Waal has captured his character with her words.
I could not put the book down. The plight of Leon consumed me – so much so that I really want to know – what happened next? Maybe a sequel please, Kit de Waal?
I can highly recommend My Name Is Leon. It is such a powerful read.