Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review through Net Galley.
It has already been suggested that readers of The Curious Incident… might enjoy this book, and I can say I have enjoyed both. As other reviewers have noted, one of the main differences it that What Milo Saw offers a variety of points of view, not only that of nine year old Milo, but also his mother, Sandy, his grandmother Lou, Tripi, the Syrian chef at the nursing home (and an illegal refugee) and although the story belongs to Milo, we get other perspectives and a kaleidoscopic effect.
One of the many strengths of the novel is Milo. He suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (that means he sees everything though a pinhole as it were, and eventually he will end up blind) and as many characters tell him, that allows him to focus and see things that many others miss. But despite how extraordinary and insightful Milo proves to be at times, he’s also a little boy. His placing his trust in somebody because of a passing remark, his catastrophizing and disappointment in adults in general, his black and white way of looking at things, his quick judgements and misunderstanding of situations, his enthusiasm and tantrums, the good and the bad, make him real and human. He is not a mini-adult; he is a believable and fully-fledged child.
The adults in his life are living through crises and difficulties (his grandmother is losing her memory and physically unwell, his mother has not recovered from her husband’s abandonment and finds it difficult to get organised and carry on with life, and Tripi is desperate to find his sister but scared of being found out as an illegal immigrant) but Milo inspires them to never give up and to be a better version of themselves.
Milo, his little pig Hamlet (growing suspiciously fast), Al (a Scottish undercover reporter and relative), Tripi, Sandy, all the residents and eventually even Mrs. Hairy and the whistling neighbour, join forces to try and bring down the horrible owner of the Forget Met Not nursing home, Nurse Thornhill. She is the bad witch of the fairy tales, although, unfortunately she might not be miles away from some real examples.
The book’s style is smooth offering an easy read, and the language used is well adapted to the specific characters. The protagonists are easy to root for (some irresistible from the beginning, like lovely Tripi, others grow into their own, like Sandy), and the novel achieves a communitarian and choral effect conveying and optimistic and life-affirming message.
This is a touching and warm-hearted book, set up in a recognisable modern Britain (for good and bad) full of unforgettable characters and a fairy tale ending. A fabulous read I recommend wholeheartedly to anybody who likes little books with big stories.