It’s hardest to belong when you’re closest to home…One wet Friday evening, Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the world’s greatest mathematical riddle. Then he disappears. When he is found walking naked along the motorway, Professor Martin seems different. Besides the lack of clothes, he now finds normal life pointless. His loving wife and teenage son seem repulsive to him. In fact, he hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton. And he’s a dog. Can a bit of Debussy and Emily Dickinson keep him from murder? Can the species which invented cheap white wine and peanut butter sandwiches be all that bad? And what is the warm feeling he gets when he looks into his wife’s eyes?
The author, Matt Haig:
“This is the book I am most proud of. I have never written anything like it and probably never will again. I have no idea if you will like it. I really hope you do. I am a nervous wreck about this one. I don’t really know why. Well, I do. Because it is personal. I put absolutely everything I had into it so if people don’t like it then they don’t like me, because all the best things I have to offer the world are inside its pages. I don’t want to tell you it is a book that features an alien in it, because you might not like books with aliens in it, and I don’t really. It is a love story and a murder story and a what-are-we-here-for? story. It is about humans. That is why I came up with the title. The Humans. See?”
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it both interesting and thought provoking. I believe that there are two levels on which you can read this book and depending on which level you go for depends on how much you enjoy/dislike the book. I read it on the higher level: what is the point in life? why are we here? what is it to be human? and I found that it made me ask questions in regards to my own life. Scary stuff. But on the other level we have the basic story, plot, narrative, and it is this level which seems to fail as a novel. We had split opinions in the group and it’s what I would call a Marmite book – you either love it or you hate it – and that’s exactly what happened. We ranged from a richly thought provoking novel with a quirky, charming narrative, to selective, contrived pap. Hhmm, sums up their opinion I suppose!
One thing that we all agreed on (me included) was that the ending was a bit of a letdown. We did feel that we wanted more from the ending and that it was clumsily finished rather than rounded and concluded in a satisfactory manner. Having said that, and from listening to the authors talk on the book, I believe that the book did exactly what the author intended it to do. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it, but it’s certainly worth your time finding out just exactly what all the fuss is about.
An event was held at Durham Book Festival with Matt Haig and Lottie Moggach (our last novel’s author). As a group we were all going to attend, but I had a slight change of plan and was called away so I’m sad to say I missed it. But, one of our members attended the event and gave Matt a bit of a grilling! She sent me an email giving details about the book which I thought were very interesting indeed; so interesting that I thought I’d share them with you all! I must warn you though that if you haven’t read the book THIS MAY SPOIL IT FOR YOU – you have been warned! This is straight from the horses mouth so please read it as such:
“Apparently in The Humans Andrew Martin suffered a complete psychological breakdown and thought he was an alien, but there was no alien as such. Matt said the novel was all about redemption and how Andrew became a better person and rescued his relationship with his wife and son as a result of his breakdown. At the end I asked whether the two murders actually took place or whether the people died accidentally and Andrew thought he was responsible – he said that yes, Andrew did murder them. I then asked that if the whole thing was in his head, how did that explain the replacement alien, to which he said, ‘that was an alien’ – so not really an explanation!! Someone else asked if it was all in his head, how did he cure the dog’s arthritis and save Gulliver – he couldn’t really explain that either, so it felt a bit unsatisfactory really. I wish some of our group had been there as I think it would have stirred up even more questions!!”
Indeed, I think that if we had all attended then there’d have been a good chance that we would have either been booted out or caused a riot! In the end, there is nothing wrong with strong opinions and we all have the right to challenge certain questions that arise from reading books. That’s the whole point of book group and I couldn’t wish for a better group than the one I’ve got. We question, we analyse, we discuss, we challenge, we explore, we listen, we learn. What more could you want from a book group?