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August Book of the month: My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal - Join the author webchat on Wednesday 6 September, 9pm

(125 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 25-Jul-17 11:58:40

Our August book of the month is My Name is Leon, Kit De Waal's brilliant debut about a little boy whose mother is no longer capable of caring for him and his baby brother. Touching and thought-provoking, this novel will tug on your heart strings – and raise questions about family, friendship and identity.

You can find out more about the book. Even if you didn't win a copy, you can grab a copy to read over the summer. Kit De Waal joins us for a webchat at 9pm on Wednesday 6 September

Buy the book from Amazon

BetterEatCheese Wed 26-Jul-17 21:52:16

All completed, fingers crossed! Looks like a great book and being raised in the 80s it appeals for that reason too

BetterEatCheese Mon 31-Jul-17 10:25:42

Received my copy today, thanks!

PhilippeFlop Mon 31-Jul-17 14:02:53

I've bought myself a copy today

IreadthereforeIam Wed 02-Aug-17 15:32:40

My copy arrived today - thank you!

TheDeadlineIsFriday Wed 02-Aug-17 17:01:25

I'm half way through My Name Is Leon and it's ok. Not brilliant but certainly readable.

Ylvamoon Wed 02-Aug-17 17:04:02

wine

aristocat Wed 02-Aug-17 18:04:08

My copy has also arrived and will start reading straight away smile

Feelslikecrystal Wed 02-Aug-17 22:29:19

My copy arrived today. 📖

FoxInABox Sun 06-Aug-17 13:44:23

Halfway through and really enjoying this so far. I love Kit De Waals style of writing, it flows really well.

niceandspicey Sun 06-Aug-17 14:01:07

Can I join?
Just ordered my copy.

SorchaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Aug-17 11:09:37

Hi @niceandspicey - of course! Glad to have you.

Update on webchat date: we'll be joined for a live discussion of the book by Kit de Waal on Wednesday 6 September, at 9pm. We hope you all can make it wine

aristocat Mon 07-Aug-17 17:49:57

smileI'm also loving this book. 100 pages in and so emotional already .....

aristocat Tue 08-Aug-17 19:13:16

Finished reading. A lovely book smile and an excellent read. Thank You.

BetterEatCheese Tue 08-Aug-17 20:00:46

Absolutely brilliant book. I'm on holiday and am half way through.

barricade Thu 10-Aug-17 03:37:44

Many thanks to Mumsnet for a copy of this book. Just completed reading it and shared my thoughts below while it's fresh in my mind. I usually give myself more time first to reflect on the contents, so hopefully I do not do injustice to the book or the author.

‘My Name Is Leon’ is a heart-rending tale illustrating the profound and merciless impact on young children hit with social services intervention and the subsequent foster care process. Set in London during the early 1980’s, we discover how 9-year old Leon and his baby brother Jake come to be fostered. Leon has a different father to Jake. While their mother Carol and Jake are white, Leon is mixed race. Leon’s father Bryon, of black Caribbean origin, is in prison. Jake’s father, Tony, wants nothing to do with Carol or the children. And the mentally ill, chain-smoking Carol is just unable to cope. So the brothers find themselves fostered by Maureen, an older lady with big red hair and even bigger belly. But the brothers are to be separated. Because there is a family who wants to adopt Jake for life. But only Jake. Because Jake is ‘white’. And Leon is not. And it’s difficult for social services to find families willing to adopt ‘black’ children. But Leon has looked after Jake before. He even looked after his mum. So why can’t they all go back to being a family together again instead of being separated?

It is a tale that deserves to be told, and proves a riveting read. The story gains in momentum, evoking a resonant sense of emotion and melancholy, right up to its conclusion. However, the subject matter is such it is always likely to tug at the heart strings. Hence, placing sentiment to one side and adopting a critical eye, there are one or two aspects identified that may have been addressed in terms of narrative composition and quality. While not written in the first person, the story is nevertheless told from the point of view of Leon. The trend of employing a ‘child-narrator’ and a story told in ‘child-speak’ is sometimes indicative of a veiled attempt at masking inferior levels in the quality of the writing. That isn’t wholly the case in this book, but inconsistencies are noted where sometimes the language used is befitting a 5 or 6-year-old, but at other times more complex vocabulary is employed. Additionally, there is a lingering sense of several unresolved subplots by the end. For example, Leon’s thieving habit is never tackled. Did he return all the stolen money and goods? During the confrontation between the police and Afro-Caribbean men, it’s never explained what Mr. Devlin, a white Irish man, was doing there. Or exactly what happened to Mr. Devlin’s family and teaching career in Brazil. And did Tufty and his friends get justice for Castro? Etc.

Having said that, it is a deeply moving and absorbing story, and the book holds itself together very well. The author uses her own personal experiences and knowledge of her work in criminal & family law and adoption panels to good effect. Clearly a lot of hard work has gone into this. An accomplished read.

smile

FawnDrench Mon 14-Aug-17 14:58:18

Thanks very much for my copy of the book.

It was an interesting and quite absorbing read, as I remember all the 1980's events very well, and could relate to most of them.
Loved all the food references, and the toys, the hairstyles, clothes and make-up.
I found it a bit long-drawn out in places and I thought the end was very rushed with everything happening too quickly in the last few chapters.

I would have liked to have found out more about Leon's mother and father.
I enjoyed the 2 allotment characters the most, more than Leon in fact.

I found the book rather anti-social worker and police, but I suppose this was how it was in the eighties; however I think the book dealt skilfully with the underlying racism and cultural tensions apparent at the time.

To sum up, I found "My name is Leon" a sort of cross between Adrian Mole and bits of Dickens, with a smattering of Steinbeck's "The grapes of wrath" thrown in for good measure.

daimbardiva Thu 17-Aug-17 09:56:34

I am loving this book so far - I'm only a few chapters in and it's breaking my heart already but in a good way!

sumac Thu 17-Aug-17 21:04:09

I would never have picked this book myself, so great choice Mumsnet, and thank you Kit for writing it.
The idea of a book with a nine year old's voice and point of view sounded like a gimmick to me but I was wrong.
I found Leon's perspective on adults - particularly social workers, who talk in jargon ('forever family') and euphemisms that would be hard for adults let alone traumatised kids to understand- very evocative and upsetting. It made me cry. The descriptions of adults who claim to listen to children's needs and then ignore unpalatable facts ("Do you like school?" 'No' "OK then") are pretty devastating too.
For me the start of the book when Leon cares for Jake was the best. I also thought Maureen and Sylvia were great characters and great women who understood Leon and loved him in their own way, despite not being perfect parent material on paper.
I wasn't so sure about the allotment sections, and I didn't think being set in the 80s added that much.

IreadthereforeIam Sun 20-Aug-17 17:09:32

What a wonderful book. I knew that it was going to be a tough read when I got to page 49 with a sizeable lump in my throat - and that continued throughout the whole 262 pages of the book.
It's the story of a mixed-race boy in the foster system. And yes, that is an important part of the story. His baby, white, brother is adopted quickly. He is not. Luckily, he is fostered by a wonderful woman, who can see what a lovely, caring boy he is. This doesn't sugarcoat anything about the whole process of fostering. You see how affected Leon is, how sad he is, how he misses his mum and brother. And you can see how unfair it all is.
The author doesn't 'baby-fy' Leon's narrative voice, I could really imagine a nine year old boy saying and thinking these things. The other characters are great as well- Maureen and her sister who develop a serious soft spot for him, Mr Devlin and Tufty from the allotment who look out for Leon. I'll definitely be recommending this book to my friends.

BewilderedBeaver Wed 23-Aug-17 15:49:17

I've just ordered, hoping to be finished in time for the webchat smile

daimbardiva Sat 26-Aug-17 09:51:45

I really enjoyed this book. It was really cleverly written from the point of view of nine year old Leon. I loved how it conveyed the story from a child's simplistic view without compromising the reader's ability to gather what was really going on. The characters were vivid and Leon's situation was absolutely heartbreaking. In fact when Jake was adopted, I wondered whether I could read on!

Highly recommended.

SallySwann Mon 28-Aug-17 20:47:00

What a lovely book. In fact, I had read this last year and enjoyed it then, but I've now re-read it and still utterly enjoyed it. Very clever in that it is written from a child's viewpoint and also that it picks things up that only a child could. All sorts of racism issues were raised without ramming it down your throat, but it sadly reflects the way society often is. Being set in the 80s, political issues of the time are explored and are easily reflect on the situation today as well. Looking forward to the next outing from Kit de Waal.

Sarah3kids Fri 01-Sep-17 14:06:03

Thank you for my copy of the book. Initially, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy the book - it was very simplistic, but the story was compelling. At some point, couldn't tell you when - the writing developed from being child-like to adult. A great quick read - very emotional. Loved the references & was pure escapism in to my childhood.

Looking forward to the web chat - I hope that there will be more from "Leon" - would be great to see how he turned out xx

BearAusten Sun 03-Sep-17 11:39:35

Thank you for my copy of the book. An oddly compelling, but sometimes quite a hard read. It felt as though you were having all your emotions tossed and turned in the tumble drier. Awful to think of the family broken up: Jake being adopted but Leon not getting this opportunity. I thought the cultural and racial tensions, together with all the references, really gave you a sense of the eighties. Not a great time for some.

Did you see many children in a similar situation to Leon's, growing up with a mother who was a foster carer? Was this novel to give them a voice?

Do you think you will continue writing 'novels' as opposed to short stories? Are you working on anything at the moment?

BouncingJellyfish Mon 04-Sep-17 14:42:55

Just finished this book. It had me in tears. I was really rooting for Leon. I really wanted him to have a happy life. What inspired you to write this book? Was it from any personal experience?

mumofmadboys Tue 05-Sep-17 07:49:24

Thank you MN for my copy. I really enjoyed reading it and it will live with me for some time to come. It is horrifying to think how children were treated in the 80's and you hope it is a bit better now. How sad to split up two brothers. It also shows how the foster care system is far from perfect. What inspired you to write the story Kit?

jonniesmum Tue 05-Sep-17 09:21:47

Enjoyed the book and the style was easy to read.

HannahLI Tue 05-Sep-17 13:46:07

I have been enjoying and yet so emotionally moved and heart broken by this book. A story that I felt needed to be told. I have been very impacted by the fact that sometimes as adults we think we are saying the right thing or helping a young person but actually we aren't we are doing the very opposite. I was very moved at times by Leon's response to being seperated from his brother, by the injustice of the situation, his inability to communicate and emotional express his anxiety and desperation at the situation that faced him. Its lovely that some of the most unlikely people have embraced him and encouraged him. I am looking forward to hearing more from Kit De Waal tomorrow!

bellabelly Tue 05-Sep-17 14:43:35

I absolutely loved reading this book - the subject matter sounded very grim so I was surprised by how much humour and sweetness was in the writing. It really shows how great kids can be badly let down by the adult world and some parts were just heart-breaking, like the two brothers being split up as Leon was not young enough or white enough for the adopting parents. I'd like to ask Kit where she got the idea for the allotment characters who had such an impact on Leon?

Paloolah Tue 05-Sep-17 16:47:23

I really enjoyed this, particularly the touching relationship between Leon and his little brother and that between Leon and Maureen. Thank goodness for the Maureens of this world!

I'd like to ask Kit why you chose to set the book at exactly the time you did - was it in order to weave in the dramatic action of the Brixton riots? Or did anything change for the better in the world of social work/adoption shortly afterwards?

BetterEatCheese Tue 05-Sep-17 19:23:00

I took this book on holiday with me and it was a real treat. I absolutely loved it and Kit’s style of writing. I felt that it conjured up such rich images and I felt that the characters were very well rounded, believable and very easy to empathise with. The view from Leon’s perspective was beautifully done and Kit captured the fleeting and confused nature of childhood thought and understanding, how it picks and chooses and clings to what adults would likely see as insignificant, or skips over things the adult world would regard as momentous. The relationships Leon had and the impacts of these on his life and how they developed and fed him with what he needed or pushed him into places he found difficult were very well written.
It is clear that Kit writes from a place of knowledge and the heartbreak which floods these pages is clearly very real. The story is one of ups and downs and I was pleased to see what looked like a happy ending or even beginning for Leon. The way the characters are all in his life as a unit, as a makeshift family in the end, is wonderful. I hope many children in his situation have such tough, real, imperfect, strong people who come together to provide something stable and fight their corners.

I would like to know if Kit's characters were based on people she knew. I am thinking in particular of her links to allotments as they seemed very real and likeable and the allotment life portrayed rang true to me in many ways.

Reastie Tue 05-Sep-17 19:56:48

I'm out tomorrow eve for web chat so posting my thoughts/question now.

Really enjoyed this. It was set in the year I was born and it was interesting to get a feel for what it was like at that time and loved seeing the story through the eyes of a child and found it very poignant.

I'd like to ask Kit did you get the idea to write a novel involving the care system and adoption because you have adopted yourself? And did you find it difficult to write from the mindset of a 9 year old mixed race boy?

Punkatheart Tue 05-Sep-17 20:35:44

Can commit to this and looking forward to reading the chat tomorrow and getting my own question ready!

Feelslikecrystal Tue 05-Sep-17 20:58:32

Finished the book a couple of weeks ago and it has stayed with me since. My parents are foster carers and the book really (for me) felt like a true reflection on how it is for lots of foster kids, obviously I'll never know but it seemed so in touch, understanding and real.I

I felt connected with Leon and was routing for him all the way to make the best of his situation.

I'd be really keen to read more by Kit.

Thank you for such an engaging and touching book.

Feelslikecrystal Tue 05-Sep-17 21:04:01

Forgot to ask my questions - is there any more books on the way? And how did you cope working within child protection as it must have been an emotionally challenging environment?

alialiath Wed 06-Sep-17 00:19:36

A poignant thought provoking read, that made me angry that child neglect happens, and that the siblings were separated.

The brothers were taken into care where they were separated, despite promises to the contrary Jake was adopted after a short time because he was a cute white baby, while Leon who was older and mixed race remained with Maureen the kindly foster carer.

It's terribly sad that a vulnerable child taken into care, not only loses his mother, unstable as she was, but this home, his father, the the neighbour Tina, and her baby Bobby who kept an eye out for Leon and his mum Carol, but he lost his baby brother that he adored.

Looking forward to the web chat with Kit de Waal , and to hear other thoughts on the book.

duggerlugs Wed 06-Sep-17 05:56:49

The book was a poignant read. The innocence of the story through a child's eyes didn't detract from the tough and emotional subject matter if anything made it all the more heart breaking.
I've not had much experience with anyone from a foster system so the insight and reading others feedback left me sad and angry this behaviour happens. It was a well written and thought provoking book..told in a superb way. I'm glad I read alone as i shed a few tears along the way. Thanks for the opportunity to read. I couldn't make the web chat as my 2 nearly 3 year old was in the throes of threenager behaviour and bed time escaped her!

hobbska Wed 06-Sep-17 09:25:54

Really looking forward to the web chat tonight! I thought the book was very well written and I was hooked (Staying up well past my bedtime to try and finish it!)

aristocat Wed 06-Sep-17 14:26:50

I'm also looking forward to being involved this evening.
I read my book whilst on holiday - I loved it and would be happy to read more about Leon.

SallySwann Wed 06-Sep-17 17:29:18

I'd like to ask what inspiration Kit took for writing largely through a child's eyes? I think it worked brilliantly and certainly added humour to what could have been a very heavy subject. I thought it was interesting that the story was set in the 80s, so was there any particular reason for this? I must say how I enjoyed the various characterisations, all of whom seemed so real. I particularly enjoyed Lion's outings to the allotment and the love/hate relationships he encountered there.

aristocat Wed 06-Sep-17 20:44:59

I'd like to ask if there'll be another book with Leon as a young adult smile
I would like him to find his brother.
Fabulous book and loved all the characters especially the allotment crew.

Belo Wed 06-Sep-17 20:45:23

Hello Kit. 

I’ll start by saying how much I liked the book.  I thought you got Leon’s voice right.  It felt like it was a bright child telling his story, rather than an adult writing about him.  But, at one point I almost gave up.  I feared the ending would be too depressing  so I almost abandoned it.  But, (SPOILER ALERT), my worst fears were not realised and (soppy woman that I am) I liked the fact that there was some romance for Sylvia at the end.  All in all, I found it a sort of happy ending. 

Whilst reading it, I kept wondering if this was based on a true story, and if so, do you know if the brothers have been able to get back in touch with each other?  

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:00:02

Hello everyone, it's great to be here!

I've just been reading through some of the questions on this thread - really interesting! Quite a few themes emerging already that I'm looking forward to discussing with you all smile

Givemecoffeeplease Wed 06-Sep-17 21:00:28

This book is AMAZING. I'm a mum of two boys and I sobbed. My Q- would you return to the story and tell us where they both ended up? I'd love to see them as teens.

(But please make them happy!!)

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:01:00

A really well written book, which I shared my thoughts on last month.

I'd like to ask Kit a couple of general questions, if I may ..

* --> Do you have a personal favourite book/s?

* --> There’s a film named ‘Detroit’ currently being screened in cinemas which also contains themes and events, e.g. riots fuelled by racial injustice, similar to the ones described in your book. I think ‘My Name Is Leon’ would also make for an interesting film or TV adaptation. If this were a possibility, how would you feel about your work in 'other people's hands', and would you feel compelled to intervene with a ‘do’s and don’t’ instructions list for producers?

smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Sep-17 21:01:26

Welcome to everyone this evening. It's great to see so many people have enjoyed My Name is Leon over the Summer and we're really looking forward to the opportunity to chat this evening with author Kit De Waal.

A warm welcome to Mumsnet Kit and congratulations on such a brilliant book; I think we'll all agree Mumsnet bookclub's favourite debut this year. Over to you...

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:01:56

KitdeWaal

Hello everyone, it's great to be here!

I've just been reading through some of the questions on this thread - really interesting! Quite a few themes emerging already that I'm looking forward to discussing with you all smile

It wasn't b

Belo

Hello Kit.

I’ll start by saying how much I liked the book. I thought you got Leon’s voice right. It felt like it was a bright child telling his story, rather than an adult writing about him. But, at one point I almost gave up. I feared the ending would be too depressing so I almost abandoned it. But, (SPOILER ALERT), my worst fears were not realised and (soppy woman that I am) I liked the fact that there was some romance for Sylvia at the end. All in all, I found it a sort of happy ending.

Whilst reading it, I kept wondering if this was based on a true story, and if so, do you know if the brothers have been able to get back in touch with each other?

Hello Belo! No, Leon isn't based on a true story nor on a true boy although alot of people ask me this. It is however based on the truth that siblings of differing ages and ethnicities are often split up and lose contact with each other. It was happening back in 1981 and it's still happens today. Sometimes for good reason but always at a cost to the children involved.

jonniesmum Wed 06-Sep-17 21:02:43

A question for Kit - the book deals with topics that I guess are very close to your heart such as racism and the foster system but where did you find the inspiration for Leon's voice?

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:02:44

Evening Kit!

alialiath Wed 06-Sep-17 21:02:52

Hi everyone smile)

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:03:29

barricade

A really well written book, which I shared my thoughts on last month.

I'd like to ask Kit a couple of general questions, if I may ..

* --> Do you have a personal favourite book/s?

* --> There’s a film named ‘Detroit’ currently being screened in cinemas which also contains themes and events, e.g. riots fuelled by racial injustice, similar to the ones described in your book. I think ‘My Name Is Leon’ would also make for an interesting film or TV adaptation. If this were a possibility, how would you feel about your work in 'other people's hands', and would you feel compelled to intervene with a ‘do’s and don’t’ instructions list for producers?

smile

Hi Barricade. I wish I could say I have a favourite book but honestly there are so many good ones. The Remains of The Day stands out for me as does Madame Bovary but ask me again next week and I would say five or six different ones. I haven't yet seen Detroit although everything I hear about it is excellent.

I have sold the film rights of Leon to Lenny Henry and he is going to adapt it for film or TV - not sure which! Watch this space!

Givemecoffeeplease Wed 06-Sep-17 21:04:12

Oh gawd please don't say it still happens! Heart breaking. The way you wrote how Leon felt about missing his wee brother cracked my heart - it really did!! I felt exactly what he was going thru. Very very beautifully written.

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:04:51

Wow that's amazing! Would love to see it on TV!

Givemecoffeeplease Wed 06-Sep-17 21:05:14

Yup me too but v tough for the child actor!!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:05:20

SallySwann

I'd like to ask what inspiration Kit took for writing largely through a child's eyes? I think it worked brilliantly and certainly added humour to what could have been a very heavy subject. I thought it was interesting that the story was set in the 80s, so was there any particular reason for this? I must say how I enjoyed the various characterisations, all of whom seemed so real. I particularly enjoyed Lion's outings to the allotment and the love/hate relationships he encountered there.

Hi SallySwann, yes about setting it in the 80's. I really did this because I first discovered Leon as a character when he was an adult and this book largely started out as research into his backstory. It soon took over as a book in it's own right. So the only reason it's set in the 80's is because that's when Leon was a child. The riots of course were key to the plot but they came into the story after I had decided on the storyline of the two brothers being separated.

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:06:10

BetterEatCheese

Evening Kit!

Hello Everyone! I'm going through the new and the old questions one by one so keep them coming! I'm a quick typist so will try to get through them!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:07:00

Givemecoffeeplease

This book is AMAZING. I'm a mum of two boys and I sobbed. My Q- would you return to the story and tell us where they both ended up? I'd love to see them as teens.

(But please make them happy!!)

Well, Givemecoffeeplease, I am planning another book when Leon is an adult but I CAN SAY NO MORE!!! You'll have to wait and see what happens!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:08:00

jonniesmum

A question for Kit - the book deals with topics that I guess are very close to your heart such as racism and the foster system but where did you find the inspiration for Leon's voice?

The inspiration for Leon's voice came partially from my son and partially because I'm quite juvenile myself and don't find it hard to daydream and think like a child. I'm 57 now and I've been waiting to grow up for a very long time. It hasn't happened yet!

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:09:00

Very pleased you will be revisiting Leon. He comes across as such a strong and interesting character, such an individual and with great people around him. Would love to know what comes of them all!

alialiath Wed 06-Sep-17 21:10:53

The part of the book that had me in tears was when Leon was taken to see his mum in the contact centre, and he was imitating the baby noises that Jake made, then he turned to his mum Carol and said ''I could be him mum, you could come back for me, and sometimes I could be him.''

My question for Kit - Are siblings still separated when they go into care today?

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:11:05

Feelslikecrystal

Forgot to ask my questions - is there any more books on the way? And how did you cope working within child protection as it must have been an emotionally challenging environment?

Hi FeelslikeCrystal. Although I worked in Social Services I never worked directly in child protection. I never had the terrible and very difficult job of taking children away from their homes - even when it's the right thing to do. I trained foster carers and worked with older children but the critical side of the job, the coal face - that's for a different kind of social worker and I'm very glad I never had to do it. I have tried to be fair to social workers in the book - there are good and bad social workers like there are good and bad plumbers and postmen. The Zebra is actually really caring, going out of her way to get Leon a bike and really understanding him. She has a difficult job and she does it well and after all, compared to some children, Leon is quite safe.

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:12:53

BetterEatCheese

I took this book on holiday with me and it was a real treat. I absolutely loved it and Kit’s style of writing. I felt that it conjured up such rich images and I felt that the characters were very well rounded, believable and very easy to empathise with. The view from Leon’s perspective was beautifully done and Kit captured the fleeting and confused nature of childhood thought and understanding, how it picks and chooses and clings to what adults would likely see as insignificant, or skips over things the adult world would regard as momentous. The relationships Leon had and the impacts of these on his life and how they developed and fed him with what he needed or pushed him into places he found difficult were very well written.
It is clear that Kit writes from a place of knowledge and the heartbreak which floods these pages is clearly very real. The story is one of ups and downs and I was pleased to see what looked like a happy ending or even beginning for Leon. The way the characters are all in his life as a unit, as a makeshift family in the end, is wonderful. I hope many children in his situation have such tough, real, imperfect, strong people who come together to provide something stable and fight their corners.

I would like to know if Kit's characters were based on people she knew. I am thinking in particular of her links to allotments as they seemed very real and likeable and the allotment life portrayed rang true to me in many ways.

Hello BetterEatCheese (one of my favourite pastimes incidentally!).
I did actually have an allotment and there were some real characters up there. There is quite a strict management system up at most allotments and lots you can and can't do so Mr. Devlin is a little bit like someone I knew who continually told me to mow the path or weed my beds! I didnt' see anyone like Tufty up there but I do know alot of Tufty's in my personal life.

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:14:58

Yes that's the part I was laughing at, my allotment can be very strict and we are always conscious of our borders and weeds!

MagicPenny Wed 06-Sep-17 21:15:42

Hi Kit, I also want to say thanks so much for such a brilliant summer read which I read in just 2 sittings. I read somewhere that you previously worked in family law. Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? At what stage did you change careers and how hard was it to change career paths to become an author?

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:15:51

Many thanks for answering my questions, Kit, especially out of the loads you have. (Lenny Henry? Good stuff! Whatever happens, there's someone who'll treat the material with respect).

And really interesting reading all your other responses, too. It's great to gain a little insight into the working mind of an accomplished author.

smile

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:16:31

Oh and my daughter has a little patch and the passion with which Leon plants and nurtures those little seeds is true of her. Captured wonderfully

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:16:37

BouncingJellyfish

Just finished this book. It had me in tears. I was really rooting for Leon. I really wanted him to have a happy life. What inspired you to write this book? Was it from any personal experience?

Hi BouncingJellyfish, I can't tell you more about Leon's future but I can tell you that some of the book was written from personal experience. My mother was a childminder mainly and sometimes a foster carer and I saw first hand how disorientating it was for children to be with us and not at home. I also grew up as a mixed race children between and part of two worlds but unlike Leon I lived with my birth family and with my siblings to whom I am still very close. It was imagining my life without them that enabled me to write about Leon from the heart.

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:17:31

BetterEatCheese

Oh and my daughter has a little patch and the passion with which Leon plants and nurtures those little seeds is true of her. Captured wonderfully

Ah! It's so lovely when children start to garden. One of the first things I grew at my allotment was the Scarlet Emperor runner beans. I unfortunately let them run away and never got to eat any!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:20:07

MagicPenny

Hi Kit, I also want to say thanks so much for such a brilliant summer read which I read in just 2 sittings. I read somewhere that you previously worked in family law. Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? At what stage did you change careers and how hard was it to change career paths to become an author?

Hi MagicPenny, I have had several careers or jobs in my time. I've been a waitress, a massage therapist (disaster!), worked for the Crown Prosecution Service, defence lawyers, Divorce Court and in family law too. I didn't always know I wanted to be a writer but I always loved reading and that is definitely the first step for anyone that wants to write. Anyone can learn how to write by deconstructing the books you love that are well written. How did the writer hook me in? How did she describe that pain so well? Why did I get bored half way through? How can I avoid doing that in my own work?

It wasn't hard to change career because I was so determined and because once I was bitten by the bug I really went about learning the craft.

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:20:15

Oh no! I'm going to try the variety next year so thanks for the tip. The community somewhere like that really comes through in your book as does what it means to people and what it can add to their lives, whatever age.

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:22:48

alialiath

The part of the book that had me in tears was when Leon was taken to see his mum in the contact centre, and he was imitating the baby noises that Jake made, then he turned to his mum Carol and said ''I could be him mum, you could come back for me, and sometimes I could be him.''

My question for Kit - Are siblings still separated when they go into care today?

Hi Alialiath, yes children are still separated when they go into care today. Not always obviously but sometimes when there is a wide discrepancy of age or ethnicity or disability/ability. Sometimes this is for good reason - the children may have different needs, the children may have got into bad patterns of behaviour including abuse or control, or sometimes there are seven children to rehome and it would be almost impossible to find one family to take them all. But in the case of Leon and Jake where they love each other deeply and where race and age are the only reasons, it is such a shame. Babies, white babies are in massive demand in adoption. You can place a white baby in a new home twenty times but a nine year old mixed race boy is far, far more difficult.

Celama Wed 06-Sep-17 21:25:30

Hi Kit, I enjoyed reading this although it was very emotive and I found myself moving from angry to sad to finding humour constantly - well done. I had been going to ask if there would be a book about Leon as an adult but you've already answered that so, what do you like to read to relax and which author would you recommend to others?!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:26:53

Reastie

I'm out tomorrow eve for web chat so posting my thoughts/question now.

Really enjoyed this. It was set in the year I was born and it was interesting to get a feel for what it was like at that time and loved seeing the story through the eyes of a child and found it very poignant.

I'd like to ask Kit did you get the idea to write a novel involving the care system and adoption because you have adopted yourself? And did you find it difficult to write from the mindset of a 9 year old mixed race boy?

Hello Reastie, yes I do have alot of experience of adoption having worked on adoption panels for many years, written training manuals on adoption and fostering and also have two adopted children. I have to say I usually just say 'children' as that's what they are to me! Working in adoption does enable you to see how new families can be made really successfully and how children are resilient and can find love in the most unexpected places. It is never as easy as 'love is enough' however. Often love is not enough. We have to, as adoptive parents, respect the fact that somewhere there are birth families with whom our children will always have a connection. That doesn't go away with an Adoption Certificate.

Givemecoffeeplease Wed 06-Sep-17 21:27:34

Oh god I'm going to cry again just reading this thread. Life is so bloody cruel.

I can't wait to read what happens to Leon and hope you'll come back to Mumsnet to talk to us about it. We love a good book we do.

alialiath Wed 06-Sep-17 21:27:54

That is so sad Through no fault of their own the child loses everything they've been brought up with, parents, neighbours, friends, locality and if they're older probably school.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Sep-17 21:28:01

Kit - Can we put to you our standard Mumsnet Qs that we ask all our book of the month authors?

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote My Name is Leon?

Gooseysgirl Wed 06-Sep-17 21:28:11

Absolutely loved this book... I was a blubbering mess on the tube when Leon found Jake's 'address' on the back of the photo!! I work with children on a daily basis that have very challenging backgrounds like Leon and I thought you captured his character and his perceptions of all the adults in his life brilliantly.

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:28:26

Celama

Hi Kit, I enjoyed reading this although it was very emotive and I found myself moving from angry to sad to finding humour constantly - well done. I had been going to ask if there would be a book about Leon as an adult but you've already answered that so, what do you like to read to relax and which author would you recommend to others?!

Hello Celama, I am currently reading a book by Donal Ryan, an Irish writer who is absolutely wonderful. He was shortlisted for the Booker Prize with The Spinning Heart which is one of the best books I've ever read. I have just finished My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tellent. Not for everyone but I thought it was possibly the best book I've read this year and it will definitely win awards. You heard it here first!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:32:35

RachelMumsnet

Kit - Can we put to you our standard Mumsnet Qs that we ask all our book of the month authors?

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote My Name is Leon?

Hello Rachel, okay first of all there were no books in our house. None. We had the Bible as my mother was a devout Christian and there might have been some kind of dictionary but I was honestly not at all interested in reading as a child. I did it at school and that's where it stayed. I only really started reading when I was in my 20's.

The last book I bought someone as a gift was The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkind and Ella Berthoud. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's like a medicine chest of books for ailments. Google it and you will definitely buy it. They are also in the process of writing one for children.

The room I wrote Leon is in my house on the top floor of four floors. It has sloping ceiling, hundreds of books, a lovely couch (which I never sit in), a desk and leather revolving chair and all my favourite pictures, photos of the kids and miscellaneous junk that I love. I wonder if I can upload a picture?

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:34:05

KitdeWaal

RachelMumsnet

Kit - Can we put to you our standard Mumsnet Qs that we ask all our book of the month authors?

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote My Name is Leon?

Hello Rachel, okay first of all there were no books in our house. None. We had the Bible as my mother was a devout Christian and there might have been some kind of dictionary but I was honestly not at all interested in reading as a child. I did it at school and that's where it stayed. I only really started reading when I was in my 20's.

The last book I bought someone as a gift was The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkind and Ella Berthoud. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's like a medicine chest of books for ailments. Google it and you will definitely buy it. They are also in the process of writing one for children.

The room I wrote Leon is in my house on the top floor of four floors. It has sloping ceiling, hundreds of books, a lovely couch (which I never sit in), a desk and leather revolving chair and all my favourite pictures, photos of the kids and miscellaneous junk that I love. I wonder if I can upload a picture?

By the way I have a new writing room - built in the garden and divine! Hope I can do some good work in it!

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:37:26

A writing room? How brill!! ...

BetterEatCheese Wed 06-Sep-17 21:37:28

Ooh would love to see a pic! Have you ever been to a book club to talk about your book?

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:37:49

... and in the garden, too.

bellabelly Wed 06-Sep-17 21:37:59

Evening, Kit. Is it a lonely job, being a writer? (Am feeling jealous of your lovely-sounding writing rooms and wondering if there's a downside! grin) Just wondering if you have to shut yourself away to really concentrate or if it's easy to balance your writing life with real life?

KTD1230 Wed 06-Sep-17 21:38:26

Hi Kit,

Apologies for bring late to the party!!

Congrats on your debut novel I really enjoyed it. My fave parts were at the beginning and the relationship between Leon and Jake. I was heartbroken when Jake was taken away.

Exciting to hear that you are writing a new book with Leon. I would love for him & Jake to be reunited. Also congrats on the book becoming a film/tv show I look forward to watching it.

Have you got any other books planned other than Leon one??

Gooseysgirl Wed 06-Sep-17 21:38:37

Excited to read that there is more of Leon to come! Because I'm Irish I have to ask... have you been to Ireland?

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:38:43

I often get asked about how to start writing. Lots of people - especially lots of women are interested in writing about their family stories or have a book burning inside them that they want to get out.

I've already talked about the importance of reading, it's one of the main ways to develop the tools necessary to be a good writer. If you don't read it's like saying you want to be a pianist but I never listen to music. Then of course you have to start, actually start to write. Flash fiction is a good way to start and gain confidence, a short story in 500 words. There are some great examples out there - google it. Then knuckle down and have a go. Everyone starts small, everyone starts with something that's not very good. I most certainly did. But you will get better, like every other skill, it takes practice.

Feelslikecrystal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:38:59

Thank you Kit ☺☺

bellabelly Wed 06-Sep-17 21:39:34

I'd also like to know if the plot for My Name Is Leon took any unexpected turns that surprised you - or did you have it all meticulously planned out and thought through from the start?

Gooseysgirl Wed 06-Sep-17 21:39:52

And yes please upload a photo of your writing zone.. it sounds wonderful!

HannahLI Wed 06-Sep-17 21:40:11

I am excited that we might to get find out more about Leon as he grows up. I still have so many questions! I really enjoyed hearing Leon's voice, thank you for such an inspiring and heart wrenching book!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:40:13

Gooseysgirl

Excited to read that there is more of Leon to come! Because I'm Irish I have to ask... have you been to Ireland?

Hello Gooseygirl! Yes, my mother is from Wexford and I've been to Ireland many many times. I often go to Dublin but have been to lots of different places, Galway, Cork, Kerry, Wexford obvs, Clare, Mayo but haven't been to the Midlands at all and there's still lots to explore. If I had my way I'd have a little house there on the Wild Atlantic Way.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Sep-17 21:41:52

Thanks for sharing your favourite books. I just started reading My Absolute Darling - it's heartbreakingly sad - please tell me it gets happier?

Givemecoffeeplease Wed 06-Sep-17 21:42:37

Love the sound of your writing spaces. Have you written any non fiction?

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:43:45

Gooseysgirl

And yes please upload a photo of your writing zone.. it sounds wonderful!

I'm desperately trying to do it but I'm not the most techsavvy person!

KitdeWaal Wed 06-Sep-17 21:45:49

KitdeWaal

Gooseysgirl

And yes please upload a photo of your writing zone.. it sounds wonderful!

I'm desperately trying to do it but I'm not the most techsavvy person!

This is the outside. I'll try and get photos of the inside!

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:46:06

Cool!!

barricade Wed 06-Sep-17 21:46:41

Need to get me a writing room!!

bellabelly Wed 06-Sep-17 21:46:44

Wow, that looks fab.

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