Milo didn’t know why he missed the sound of the saucepan drawer that day. He must’ve been sleepy or maybe Gran was extra quiet, but by the time he felt the flutter in his chest which told him that Gran needed him, and by the time Hamlet was squealing his head off in the garage because he’d swallowed too much smoke, it was too late, the kitchen was on fire.
“It’s not your responsibility to check on your gran,” said Mum.
She leant in and kissed Milo’s hair. She was always doing that: telling him off and then kissing him. She smelt of burnt things and sticky perfume and sleep.
And yes… Hamlet is a pig
In honour of the release of the paperback version of What Milo Saw being available on August 13th, I was able to get a copy from NetGalley for review. And I am so lucky I got this opportunity. This novel follows 4 points of view, but mostly that of Milo, a nine year old boy with retinis pigmentosa, an incurable medical condition, causing near or complete blindness. For Milo, he can see through a pinhole which means that he has to focus really hard on things, and often notices different things to others. This becomes important when his great gran is taken into Forget Me Not, a nursing home which seems too good to be true.
Other than Milo, we read from the perspective of his mother Sandy who is running a failing beauticians from the shed in their back garden. They’re starting to struggle with money, and Sandy is also struggling with her own weight, using diet pills frequently. Most of Sandy’s story focuses on the family breakdown after Milo’s dad left them for a new life in Abu Dhabi with his “tart”.
We also hear from his great grandmother Lou, a ninety-two year old woman struggling with dementia. She is the one to set fire to the kitchen and is taken to Forget Me Not. There’s a very sweet relationship between her and Milo as she’s mute. She writes a lot of things down on her pad of paper and Milo talks to her. It’s a very interesting view to read from as often it’s things that Lou sees that help us to understand what Milo’s seeing.
Finally we read from someone other than a member of Milo’s family. Tripi is the cook at Forget Me Not, which is how he befriend’s Milo. He’s a Syrian refugee seeking asylum so that he can earn money and pay for someone to find his sister whom he lost in Syria. His story is so heartfelt, and Milo’s urge to help him throughout this novel really is beautiful and it showsa very childlike ignorance to what’s happening in Syria. However that’s what really makes me love when Milo and Tripi are featured together because for Milo there’s no reason that a person should suffer and he makes it his job to help.
All of the characters in this novel are beautifully well rounded. At times it can be said that Milo and Lou both feel like unreliable narrators as their ability to see things clearly and remember them are impaired. But despite that this novel is still a beautiful depiction of family getting through things together. It deals with things like unusual pets and funny things like that, but also juxtaposed are things like loss of a loved one and being young and being old and how the two sometimes feel like one in the same.
This novel is beautiful. I can’t say it enough. I sat on the train home and cried whilst I finished it, and it’s worth reading all the way through if only for the stunning craftsmanship of the last line which ties together the whole story beautifully. It’s very much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon or The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion in the style of the writing and the impaired lead character. The innocence of Milo is very similar to the characters represented with Asperger’s Syndrome in these two novels, both of which I would highly recommend.
Total pages – 400
Total read time – 3 hours (roughly)
Rating /10 – 8.5
Recommend – Yes 100%
Pick up a paperback copy of What Milo Saw on August 13th