Skip to main content

The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

The View on the Way Down
The View on the Way Down feels a very real story. Both emotional intensity and everyday ordinariness are so well written that reading the book sometimes felt like eavesdropping on your neighbours. In this case, neighbours with a very sad story to tell.

The Stewart family were happy once. Mum, dad, two sons and a daughter. Before depression robbed the eldest son Kit of all his joy, and eventually robbed the family of their eldest son. The effects of Kit's illness continue to ripple through this now fractured and brittle family. Second son Jamie left home on the day of Kit's funeral; he lives a completely separate life. Little sister Emma is struggling with two uncomfortable environments, with neither home nor school providing her with a refuge. Mum fusses, all false brightness, busy and useful. Dad hides in the shed, his quietness a disguise for barely repressed anger. They are each locked in their own grief, grimly getting on with life but without happiness, laughter or even understanding. But, despite all this anguish the book itself is a beautiful thing to read. The lack of sentimentality, the light humour, and the sense of hope all make The View on the Way Down a book I enjoyed reading, even when it was breaking my heart.

Let me say something about the humour, because some of the anecdotes had me reading them aloud to my partner. In particular, Jamie's experiences as a bookseller had me nodding in recognition and saying 'listen to this, this happened to me'. His interactions with customers are absolutely true, and happen in bookshops up and down the country everyday. There is also happiness in the stories from the boys' childhood, as they got into scrapes of their own making. The evident closeness of Kit and Jamie is bittersweet, as the memories are painful for Jamie and will continue to be so until he can make peace with what happened.

This is something the whole family has been unable to do; they cannot deal with their own sadness and so are also unable to help each other with the burden of grief. Of all of them my heart went out to Emma the most. She was too young to understand the situation at the time, and knows there are so many things unsaid about it but any attempt by her to ask questions is rebuffed. She suffers from the strained atmosphere at home and is bullied at school. The tragedy of the unintentional neglect of those left behind is something that touched me immensely. Who is looking after Emma?

The middle section of the book is composed of letters written by Jamie to his dad, trying to set out his feelings. These are intense and sad, but at the same time I felt there might be hope if he was reaching out like this. Someone has to be the one to make the first move to heal a relationship. But there is no easy path to things being alright in this book; another thing that makes it feel genuine. So too is the portrayal of Kit's depression seeming to strike from nowhere; a previously happy and outgoing person there is no obvious root cause.

I think The View on the Way Down is a very affecting novel, written in a straightforward, simple style that makes the emotional impact all the greater. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It is stunning.

Picador were very kind in sending an advance copy of the book for review. The View on the Way Down is published in Hardback on 11 April 2013.


Popular posts from this blog

Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

'Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you've found an intimate picture of another woman on your fiance's phone... Eve is heartbroken after discovering her fiance is cheating on her. Being surrounded by the joys of Christmas is more than Eve can bear, so she chooses to avoid the festivities by spending Christmas alone on a houseboat in Pangbourne. Eve gets gets an unexpected seasonal surprise when handsome local vet Greg comes to her rescue one day, and continues to visit Eve's boat on a mission to transform her from Kitchen Disaster Zone to Culinary Queen.But where does Greg keep disappearing to? What does Eve's best friend Daisy know that she isn't telling? And why is there an angry goose stalking Eve's boat?
This book illustrates how special a thing it is to have people send you books out of the blue; it's a privilege and a pleasure. I wouldn't have known about this book, let alone read and loved it, if it hadn't landed in my letterbox. I'm …

Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year!
That's 2015 done and dusted, here's to 2016 and let's hope it's filled with love and laughter, friends and fun, books and cake. And really, that's about as far as my resolutions go but I do have a few projects in mind for the coming year and beyond.

This year there are two anniversaries I want to celebrate. The first is the two hundredth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth on 21st April.
Jane Eyre is one of my most favourite stories of all and I've lost count of the number of times I've read it over the years. I'll be re-reading it yet again come April, but before then I plan to read the other three novels Charlotte wrote starting with Shirley this month. I'm quite keen to read the new Claire Harman biography of Charlotte Bronte too at some point.

The other anniversary is that of Shakespeare's death 400 years ago on 23rd April. I've finally admitted to myself that reading the same half dozen plays over and over isn'…