Chris Paling

Published: 10 May 2007
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 192 pages
ISBN: 9781846270796


Now that Billy lives with his new family, he and his mother only get to see each other four times a year. These brief visits are what Billy dreams of and they're the reason why Jane struggles to get up every day, to keep her flat tidy, and to behave in the way she's learned that other people consider 'normal'. But as their day together approaches, Jane receives a sudden and violent reminder of her troubled past and ends up in the hospital again, missing their appointment. It is only when Billy eats the piece of chocolate he's been saving since their last meeting that he discovers the message she'd written on the inside of the wrapper, along with an address, and there suddenly seems to be a possibility that they can be with each other again - but this will mean dodging the authorities and finally confronting the legacy of Jane's own damaged childhood.

This is the moving and uplifting story of a young mother and her son - kept apart by mental illness, brought back together by love. It is certain to find admirers among readers of Zoe Heller, Esther Freud, Helen Simpson, Gill Hornby, Lionel Shriver, Shena Mackay, Lavinia Greenlaw, Andrea Ashworth and Julia Darling.

About the author

Image of Chris Paling

Chris Paling is the author of eight previous novels including Deserters, The Silent Sentry and The Repentant Morning (all published by Cape/Vintage) and most recently Minding (Portobello 2007). He lives in Brighton and is the producer for BBC Radio 4's 'Midweek'. More about the author


‘Chris Paling has a wonderfully accurate and intimate way of describing that trapdoor underneath our society. Very moving’ Hugo Hamilton, author of THE SPECKLED PEOPLE



‘It's a measure of Paling's skill in assembling such "material" into a plausible whole that the redemptive ending seems in keeping with what has gone before. ... Beautifully wrought... Somebody once remarked that there were three themes any self-respecting novelist should shy away from: incest, children and mental illness. Minding, which occupies at least two thirds of this territory, is as taut, as precisely evoked and as defiantly uncommercial as anything Paling has written.’ DJ Taylor

‘Paling is a great thing among British writers - he keeps on experimenting’

‘Paling writes with great sensitivity about the day-to-day struggle to be "normal" when the normal world appears to make no sense. Chris Paling is moving without being sentimental; a dedicated realist unafraid of the awful truth.’ Kate Saunders

‘This beguiling novel moves quietly from the humorous to the harrowing to the gently hopeful. At its heart is Jane, a young woman struggling with mental illness. Her son, Billy, was taken away from her some years ago. He's now 11, and so long as she can manage to appear outwardly 'normal', they get to see one another every few months. A visit is imminent when a story in the local newspaper catapults Jane back into her troubled past. Luckily she has people to look out for her, including Alf, a grumpy yet tender-hearted pensioner, Sugar Plum Fairy, her friend from the loony bin, and Patrick, a flirty gay bookseller who sees her foibles as sings of passionate individualism. Meanwhile, Billy is plotting his escape from sterile foster parents, back to Jane. It's his actions that will lead her to confront the legacy of her own damaged childhood.’ Hephzibah Anderso

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