Contacts it is a thoughtful and powerful mix of humour and sadness depicting the fragility of mental health and the devastating affects of depression and loneliness. James is on a train from London to Edinburgh where he intends to commit suicide as soon as he arrives. As the train propels him towards his end the reader is taken on a journey through James’s life as he recounts significant episodes in his past; his father’s death, his once close relationship with his sister Sal and his broken relationship with Michaela. At the heart of the story is James’s fractured friendship with his best friend Karl. The story is peppered with other characters such as Meghan, Sal’s somewhat awkward PA and Steffi who makes it her mission to save James through the power of social media. All these characters have their own issues, even James’s mum, but Watson presents them sympathetically with a gentle humour which does not poke fun but makes them real and present. They could be your brother or your sister or your friend; they are all just trying to get through life the best way they can – just like we all are. It is also about the way we are connected to each other through the medium of modern technology – that mix of people we may or may not know well that we keep as contacts in our phonebooks; the obscure names and numbers of people we knew once perhaps through work or even just someone we’ve chatted to in the pub after discovering a common interest. We may have only met them once or twice yet we keep their number and it is these links which are examined in CONTACTS, the way in which we are all connected in some way and how small the world really is. Despite the dark subject matter it carries an optimism that people do actually care about each other; even those we don’t know well – a testament to the positive use of modern technology. There is some beautiful writing in this book some of which made me catch my breath, stop and then read again. There was only one character I couldn’t quite work out but I’m not saying who as I don’t want to spoilt it for the rest of you. I’m sure Mark Watson had reasons for the way that part of the story played out and I’m certainly not going to blame him for my obtuseness! One other thing to mention is that it was a refreshing change to read a book about a man with body issues. Focus is usually on the female when it comes to body related themes and again, Mark Watson deals with this in a no-nonsense and pragmatic way avoiding criticism and mockery. A joy of a book. Please read it.

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