I started reading this tremendously inventive book just after giving up on this year's Man Booker prizewinner "The White Tiger", which, after a brilliant start, descended into tedious dialogue and uninspiring writing. Why THIS novel by Adam Mars-Jones wasn't even long-listed, I can't imagine. (Well, yes I can. What really IS hard to imagine is that the panel of agenda-burdened judges might for once favour something that I find readable.) In a literary sense, this is one of the best books I've ever read: a word-lover's paradise, full of brilliant turns of phrase and playful games with language, and so elegantly written that reading it was pure joy.
John Cromer is a boy with severe constraints on his mobility, who spends almost the entirety of this, the first part of a planned trilogy, either in bed or in a wheelchair. But these limitations open up to him the infinite possibilities of thought, and fertilise his imagination. John's small world is thus made a lot more interesting than many wider ones, and his delightful narration is full of insights into human behaviour, and thought-provoking accounts of obstacles most of us never have to deal with. There's plenty to make you angry or sad on John's behalf - especially the way that some of his carers treat him - but it's also extremely funny. And John is (usually) so cheerful, and determined to have a life, that you admire him as much as you ache for him.
Mars-Jones really gets inside the mind of his child narrator; it's so convincing, it reads like a genuine autobiography. It won't be to everyone's taste: it's a slow, wordy novel of detailed reminiscence, rather than a story with a plot, and readers who would froth at the mouth over frequent and detailed reference to a disabled schoolboy's homosexual yearnings should avoid it. But if you find it strikes a chord with you, you'll be glad you read it.