The Man I Think I Know
by Mike Gayle
Whatever happens to those kids at school who are always being tipped to be stars in adult life?
It’s a question all of us find ourselves asking at some time and Mike Gayle’s powerful, poignant novel answers it with regard to Danny Morgan and James McManus – rivals for top honours in everything throughout their school years in Birmingham.
Whatever their friends and teachers might have expected, neither Danny nor James is currently running the country.
Depressed and unemployed, Danny is facing an ultimatum from his girlfriend Maya: if he doesn’t get out and get a job, she’s leaving.
It was an accident that changed James’s life and now he is looked after affectionately by his parents. But his sister Martha believes that the role of full-time carers is destroying their lives – and infantilising her brother.
She suggests that James should go into a respite home while her parents take a break.
The respite home, as it turns out, where Danny has just got a job.
What is the path that has brought these two people to this unexpected place, and where will it take them next?
This is the story of Danny and James, but also of the families who love them and of the women they love. It is a story of many surprising twists, by turns funny and sad, painful and uplifting, and marks a brilliant new stage in the writing career of one of Britain’s favourite novelists.
This book caught my eye as I’ve been especially looking out for other books by authors I have rated highly since sorting my reviews by author. I’ve had a good run of positive reviews recently and luckily this is no exception.
Danny Allen’s educational background means that he should be in a high flying career right now, but he’s not. Things didn’t go to plan and years later Danny finds himself in the job centre being turned away for not actively trying to find a job.
James DeWitt should also be in a high flying job, having previously been elected as an MP, but things took a drastic change when he was involved in an incident that left him with a brain injury.
When the two men meet at a local care home, Danny pretends not to remember James from his schooldays but as the pages turn and Danny eventually takes on a job as James’ private carer, the pair develop a quirky yet genuine friendship that neither could have imagined. At first I worried when I found out the plot, I thought it would just be a male version of “Me Before You“, but it’s not just that. Both characters grow in each other’s company working together to patch up the parts of their lives that have fallen apart.
Something about this book gripped me. It was cheesy in parts, so cheesy that I’d usually be rolling my eyes, some parts were ridiculously predictable, but for some reason, I liked it. “The Man I Think I Know” definitely has similarities to Gayle’s “Wish You Were Here“. Both books are light-hearted, both focus on male friendship and both are uplifting but if you made me choose, I’d have to say this was the better of the two.
Overall rating: “The Man I Think I Know” is a lovely story of male friendship and overcoming life’s difficulties. It may be cheesy and predictable in parts, but it works and I’ve returned this book to the library with a smile on my face. Mike Gayle‘s getting 4 stars from me for this one.
See my other reviews of books by Mike Gayle here: