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Fiction book of the month for February

Shtum by Jem Lester
Shtum is the story – though with autobiographical undertones – of the trials of the family of an acutely autistic boy named Jonah.  Always compassionate but never mawkish, the novel is a nuanced balancing act: whilst there is a palpable sense of how loved Jonah is, this is a candid and unsentimental glance at the potential havoc wrought on family life by having a severely autistic child.  It also deals with the reduction of a child’s life and wellbeing by the state to a cost/benefit analysis, and takes in along the way the backstory of Jonah’s beloved Grandfather and his family’s plight under the Nazis.  This is a total winner of a novel: textured, funny, illuminating, harrowing and ultimately uplifting.