Michelle and Jasmine read: The A to Z of You and Me

Every few weeks myself and Michelle (from The Unfinished Bookshelf) will be reading and reviewing books together, with us each posting half of the review on our blog. Our joint reviews will be a mixture of re-reads, recommended reads, and completely fresh reads! To start with, we read The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah.

James Hannah is an English author whose d├ębut novel, The A to Z of You and Me was published in March 2015 and immediately became the recipient of much praise, including a place on The Desmond Elliott Prize 2015 Longlist. 

The A to Z of You and Me is a love story told by Ivo, a dying 40 year old man who is living his last days in a hospice. The story is told through the premise of the A to Z game, suggested by his Palliative Care Nurse, Sheila. With every letter of the alphabet, Ivo must think of a story connected to a body part of that letter. Our first read was chosen by me as I read The A to Z of You and Me earlier in the year.

M: This is definitely a book I would not have picked up without your encouragement, Jasmine. It’s much more literary than what I usually read and truthfully that would have scared me off if it weren’t recommended by you. So, going in I was kind of bracing myself for perhaps not being able to breeze through it as much as I would a YA novel. But The A to Z of You and Me was surprisingly easy to read and very compelling. Once I started reading Ivo’s story, I couldn’t put it down.

J: I’m going to be totally honest and say that it’s not a book that I’ve have gone for either! I’m friends with James Hannah (Jim) and had gotten so excited with the promotion and lead up to publication date that I absolutely had to buy a copy, regardless of whether I would ever read it. At the book launch, I bought my mum a copy as well as one for myself but I’d decided that I would put off reading mine until the summer so that I could properly read the book without feeling as if I needed to provide a response to Jim straight away. My mum dived straight in, read it in 3 days, and then declared it ‘the best book she’d ever read’, a compliment that even I couldn’t ignore! I began reading the next day and absolutely devoured it. I honestly LOVED this book!

M: Your mum clearly has very good taste in books! I think it just goes to show how important word-of-mouth is when it comes to reading. I hadn’t even heard of this before you recommended it (probably because it is a UK release). I also tend to trust the opinions of people I know and who have similar tastes much more than if I see a description somewhere (even if that might spark an interest). Sorry, I’m getting slightly off topic here!

J: I’m sure my mum would be very pleased that you think she has good taste and I absolutely agree that personal recommendations are so important when choosing books. I never would have even begun actively choosing YA if it hadn’t been for recommendations. Like you Michelle, I read a lot of YA which although often deals with difficult topics focuses on teenagers and so hearing a difficult story told from the viewpoint of a 40 year old man made this book very different to anything that I’d read before. 

One of the things that I loved about The A to Z of You and Me is that even to a 19 year old female, Ivo’s real and raw voice spoke to me in a way that shows true skill on Jim’s part. I didn’t ever feel that I was observing the story, quite the opposite; I felt totally immersed and completely connected. Michelle, did you feel a detachment from Ivo or did his honesty speak to you too?

Read Part Two on Michelle's blog, The Unfinished Bookshelf!

You might also be interested to read my Q and A with Michelle


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