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4.1 out of 5 stars269
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 28 November 2013
This book is very different from Ben Hatch's most recent books on his travels. This is a work of fiction but perhaps with elements of his own early life in there.

The main character, Jay, is one who will be recognised by every parent with grey hair, an empty wallet and a teenage son who thinks the world will provide. Following Jay's progress from job to job you can't help feeling empathy for this young man who just wants to write. The trouble is he doesn't actually seem to get round to doing it. A year and three and a half pages down on his novel, he loses his mother to cancer and his younger brother has to go to boarding school because his father can no longer cope. He has a girlfriend who he just might be falling for but she wants to go away to university whereas Jay wants them both to travel. On top of all that his best friend Sean starts to act more strangely than usual and Jay doesn't know how to help. His father, though devastated at the loss of his wife, tries to throw himself back in to normality by hob-nobbing with celebrities in his job but only manages this through a haze of alcohol and a stiff upper lip.

Ben Hatch has written an emotive novel with moments of sadness which will have tears welling up to moments of outright snorts of laughter as Jay tries to make sense of the world and his place in it. Cancer is never an easy subject to sit alongside humour but the author manages this very well.
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on 6 June 2014
Although there are elements of comedy in this thoroughly excellent novel, it would be wrong to read this for a laugh. I think that the 'one star reviewers' have simply misunderstood this.

I see the main character, Jay Golden as suffering from an existential crisis. He has been through the grief of losing his mother to cancer and he just cannot relate to the world of work, with all its fake values and demands. It's all so pointless to him. All he wants is to be a creative writer, not someone stuck behind a desk or selling lawnmowers. He is so alienated from the world that he enjoys winding up famous people and getting them to swear at him. In this he demonstrates how little he regards fame and status and himself.

Jay is trapped in his grief and inertia but he gradually realizes that he loves his girlfriend and wants to run away from reality with her into a great and exciting adventure. But Jay doesn't 'fit in' with society, his girlfriend's or his father's expectations. His feeling of alienation begins to translate itself into physical symptoms.

Some of the bad reviews complain that nothing happens and that the story is boring. I see that as precisely the point. It shows how boring and unfulfilling life can be when you want to follow your dream and society is continually trying to drag you into dull conformity. The story focuses on the day to day routine and the petty arguments and demands made upon us.

Some of the bad reviews say that the character isn't likeable. But beneath his exterior apathy and his childish pranks, we see how much Jay loved his mother and how he is lost without her. He also loves his younger brother and his father (when he stops nagging him.)

The pain and tragedy of his mother's death is portrayed so masterfully. This is no fiction. I think it has to come from the author's own experience. I relate to what Jay does. I too kept things that belonged to my mother. I too sniffed them to conjure up her memory and presence, knowing that this too will fade away in a short time. Jay's mother is so well painted, she was just real to me.

A profoundly moving and genuine glance at grief, love, everyday life and dreams that don't come true. Don't be put off by the few bad reviews here.
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on 3 January 2014
I'm never sure what to write for a book review, it's a bit like wine tasting, some people get very worked up about it comparing vintages, grapes etc., whereas I like the wine or I don't like it and I don't care if it cost £5 or £500 a bottle. I was advised (when wine tasting) to be honest and say the first thing that came into my head and not bother about those buffs who think they know everything so I'm going to do the same with my book review.

I loved this book. At first I thought it was simply going to be amusing but soon realised it went a lot deeper with intimate thoughts, feelings and even deeds disclosed to the reader. It was a journey traveled by a young man coming to terms with the death of his mother from cancer and all the other trials and tribulations that face a teenager as he becomes a man. Sibling rivalry, sibling protection, what a wonderful big brother Jay was for dear Charlie, taking care of him, standing up for him when necessary and allowing him to indulge in his OCD urges, in fact encouraging him!

I lost patience with the teenage Jay at times, most of his problems were self-inflicted but I felt sorry for him and wanted him to succeed. His father's drinking and attitude didn't help. He carried out most of his threats so at least showed consistency of behavior. I felt sympathy for both father and son and recalled experiences of a similar nature from my own teenage years but as an insolent daughter to my long suffering widowed mother.

The book is written with flashbacks, a style on which I'm not keen because I can easily be confused but this time I wasn't. I found the writing honest, witty, extremely readable (if I can say that) and the sections with Jay and his dying mother are written with a poignancy and understanding acquired in adulthood.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book as an excellent read and I give it 5 stars without reservation.
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on 9 December 2013
This was my introduction to Ben Hatch's work, and I'm really looking forward to reading more.

I was worried that a serially-sacked eighteen-year-old not wanting to get involved in the real world might annoy me. Needn't have been. Ben Hatch presents this character and the complications of his family brilliantly, with original and at times absurd humour, a great structure of dropping in back-plot, and little details in side characters that create a vivid story. Hatch handles the emotional aspects of coming to terms with challenge and loss with care that makes you feel the pain sometimes in the humour, and a real drive to read on and find out how such a story could end.

Road To Rouen is lined up for me to read next - I have high expectations.
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on 12 January 2014
This book is about 18 year old Jay Golden, who would love nothing more than to become a writer but doesn't seem to get past his third page. In the meantime he cannot hold a job down, which drives his family mad. There is his younger brother Charlie who loves his teenage mutant ninja turtles, who wont leave the skin on his elbows alone. There is his older sister Sarah who no longer lives with them and is getting married. Then there is is long suffering dad who had to take the roles of both parents after losing his wife, Jay's mum to cancer. The story takes place in the year following his mums passing and it is about how they all cope in the aftermath. It is a funny heart warming coming of age book which will make you laugh and it will also make you cry.
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on 6 December 2013
Ben Hatch is one of those authors who makes writing a novel look as easy as drawing breath. A combination of laugh-out-loud moments on one page and tears on the next, he manages to achieve that enviable 'writers dream' of having you hooked from cover to cover and wanting more when you reach the end.
If you've read "Are We Nearly There Yet?" and "Road to Rouen" and are waiting for his next to be penned, I'd recommend the P45 Diaries. This is a republished and renamed version of his first novel The Lawnmower Celebrity. While this book is fiction compared to his more well known travelling memories, you won't be disappointed.
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on 7 January 2014
Rarely have I read a book so filled with sadness but yet so darkly humorous at the same time. Jay Golden, the main protagonist, is a prickly, difficult teenager trying to find himself while engulfed in grief at the loss of his mother. His father, also grieving, and trying to keep it together, is losing patience with Jay and his lack of commitment to finding a career.
There are some very funny moments with Jay in numerous workplaces but for me the beauty in this book lies in the diary accounts of Jay's mother's illness and death. Maybe because I so recently lost my own mum, but I had to keep putting the book aside while I composed myself, I identified so strongly with the emotions described. The scene for example where the Golden children give themselves a carefully rationed sniff of a lock of their mum's hair is utterly heartbreaking.
Anyway, rather than tell any more of the story I would urge you to read it for yourself. Ben Hatch has a light and entertaining touch when writing about family matters. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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on 7 December 2013
If you can find more pleasure for 99p, please let me know how.

That's all I wanted to say really, but the Amazon thought police, dubious of brevity, insist I write more.
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on 9 January 2014
I thought I was going to find another Matt Dunn or Nick Spalding, unfortunately not even close. Not funny, made me squirm about his view on the world and why he shouldn't lift a finger
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on 4 February 2014
I absolutely adored this book. I read it within a few days because I simply couldn't put it down. It's emotional and humorous, you'll be crying one moment and then laughing the next!

Jay has tragically lost his mum to cancer and finds it difficult to hold a job down. He has a strained relationship with his father and feels lost. I find Jay so relatable being a 22 year old on their 10th job whose felt lost and alone in the past. Of course, I don't know the pain in which Jay has gone through (thank God) but Jay tells it in such a way that it tugs at the heartstrings.

Above all that, Jay is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud (in public) mutliple times when reading this book and I honestly can't wait to read it again! It reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, two of my favourites. I would definitely recommend this book and I can't wait to read Ben Hatch's other novels!
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