I Gave Him My Best Shot
By June Felton
Book Guild Publishing, 2015. 253 pp.
Available on Amazon, Book Depository, and Kindle.
£17.99 (but it can be bought for less); On Kindle £4
Reviewed by Gloria Deutsch
Many years ago I dated a boy who was reluctant to invite me to his home. After an evening out, we somehow always ended up in my family’s home for coffee and endless fascinating conversations about the state of the world.
Eventually however, he decided that he would invite me home – and there I met his ‘strange’ younger brother who sat in a corner and did not communicate with anyone. I tried to chat to him and could not get any response at all. I vaguely remember that I playfully threw something at him and he smiled faintly.
That was autism in the late fifties; no-one knew what it was or how to behave with autistic children.
June Felton knows the subject intimately, having worked in the field for many years and having run a learning center for autistic children from her home in London.
In her second novel I Gave Him My Best Shot, she tells the story of Barney, an autistic child whose affliction brings many hardships on his loving family.
In a gripping narrative we learn about the characteristics of autism – the bubble-like existence, the way the autistic child will interpret speech literally, the obsessive behavior which, in the course of the novel, dominates the lives of the protagonists.
The action moves between England and India and June expertly evokes the differences in landscape and atmosphere between the two.
The sub-plot, dealing with the ins and outs of the fashion business, keeps the story going at a steady pace and offers a fascinating glimpse into that specialized and glamorous world.
The author is also adept at creating interesting characters – the saintly Anna, the Machiavellian Dinah – and Barney, oblivious and uncaring about those who love him.
Nowadays autism is better understood and there are suitable frameworks to accommodate the condition.. The book gives a profound insight into the problem and is also a good and suspenseful read.
I could nit-pick about some sloppy editing which has the institution Barney is to attend called by two different names on the same page. And for me ‘alright’ is not all right and never will be. But these are minor criticisms in a book which on the whole achieves what it sets out to do in a readable and accessible format.
And the ex-boy-friend? He became a famous Harley Street psychiatrist, although whether inspired by his brother or the experience of dating me I will never know.