Happy Tuesday to you all. I’m most delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour today for Saturdays At Noon by Rachel Marks. Thank you to Sirya and Livvi over at Michael Joseph for inviting me onto the tour and for the ARC which I read in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Firstly, a little bit about the book
Emily just wants to keep the world away.
After getting into trouble yet again, she’s agreed to attend anger management classes. But she refuses to share her deepest secrets with a room full of strangers.
Jake just wants to keep his family together.
He’ll do anything to save his marriage and bond with his six-year-old son, Alfie. But when he’s paired with spiky Emily, he wonders whether opening up will do more harm than good.
The two of them couldn’t be more different. Yet when Alfie, who never likes strangers, meets Emily, something extraordinary happens.
Could one small boy change everything?
Saturdays At Noon is published by Michael Joseph (Penguin) and is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio…
Oh my goodness, Saturdays At Noon was my first read of the year, and I have been itching ever since to really shout about this most charming and joyous novel! This highly accomplished debut novel got me out of the biggest reading slump then popped me straight back in one due to it’s wonderfulness, it flew straight into being one of my 2020 books of the year and after I finished, sat back and closed the book, I just thought “Yes, this is why I read” to find gems such as this.
Saturdays At Noon is about Jake, six year old Alfie and Emily; three very misunderstood characters. Jake and Emily meet Saturdays at noon at an anger management group where neither of them want to be or think they actually need to be. Jake is married to Jemma and a stay-at-home dad to Alfie – who is a difficult child to say the least, and Jake is pretty much at the end of his tether with him. Jake has all but being forced into attending to save his marriage. Reasons for why Emily is attending are a little bit more unknown until the story develops – although she doesn’t seem to want to communicate with people or the world in general. Jake and Emily don’t hit it off, but after a chance encounter Emily and Alfie do -in fact, Jake cannot at all fathom why Alfie, who dislikes strangers, instantly takes to Emily…
So much love, joy and truthfulness has been written into every page and moment of this novel, of which truly shone out at me whilst reading, and I really think that’s due to Marks’ own personal experience. Alfie sees the world very differently to you and I – when people don’t agree with him he fast loses his temper, becomes very aggressive and out of control. These are the daily challenges the author faced with her own son (who Alfie’s character is based on) until she came upon a condition called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) – which is on the autistic spectrum but not at all widely known and where she could then better start to understand her son.
Saturdays At Noon is told through the eyes of Jake and Emily, with chapters every now and then from Alfie and it’s these that add that extra special touch. In all honesty, I tend to stay away from child (esp young) narrators as I struggle with them not sounding believable or coming across as years beyond their age, but Alfie is incredibly authentic. His inner thoughts and telling’s really go a long way in understanding his outside behaviour – he could honestly make me giggle and cry at the same time, but he was also exhausting – I was exhausted at times reading how he was and therefore could completely understand why Jake was how he was, and I say all that as the highest compliment to the author to be able to bring that exhaustion across so effortlessly within her writing.
Jake, Alfie and Emily are all characters that became very dear to me throughout and will stay with me as special ones for a long time to come. Jake’s struggles and imperfections made him so much more endearing to me, I was never left in doubt for one single moment over his love for Alfie despite his anguish, anger and thoughts towards him. As a parent myself I guess I understood those expectations he had of Alfie – aren’t we all guilty of that? yet it’s this expectation which made Emily and Alfie bond so well – she didn’t expect anything off him, just taking him exactly as he was, and I adored these most tender and special moments between the two.
When that thing called real-life got in the way of me reading Saturdays At Noon I was still thinking about these characters – I just wanted more, yet at the same time I was trying so desperately to savour it. The conversations felt so real; never once stilted, forced or unbelievable. Even though the anger management sessions didn’t take up a huge chunk of the book I really enjoyed the freshness this part played and I loved that Emily stayed so true to herself with how she felt with their rituals and beliefs, even though in the end she did gain something from it – a wonderful character who despite her reservedness and prickliness was often making me laugh. But mostly this story just made me feel so much, at times I was laughing, at times I was melting with love, at times my heart-strings were being torn to shreds, and at times it had me looking at my own parenting ways.
Lots of subjects are tackled within this novel: alcoholism, self-esteem issues, sexual abuse, and stigma surrounding autism, but I must say that all is handled sensitively and compassionately and in not a too heavy way. The tough realities and as I said previously, expectations of parenting are also very much at the focus – it’s the most difficult job in the world, and it reminds us, and others on the outside looking in, that being frustrated/losing our temper doesn’t in any way mean we don’t still love our child/children unconditionally – it rather makes us human.
Whilst highlighting PDA is certainly what this book does, it isn’t a story focused on the autistic spectrum and stamping a label on children, it’s about really seeing children for who they are, treating and celebrating each and every one of them as wonderful individuals. I loved how Alfie ultimately viewed his condition in the final chapter – having his perspective on everything was the most perfect ending for me, and I was one blubbering, smiling mess!
I can’t end this review without mentioning Spider-Man and Gwen Stacey’s part in this story: GENIUS!
This novel is a father and son story, a parenting story, an utterly romantic love story, and a life story that’s all delicately and impressively rolled into one. Saturdays At Noon is not only a very special and unforgettable debut novel that’s heart-tugging, witty, wise and joyous, it’s also a reminder to us all that each and every child is unique and wonderful.
I’m so glad this novel is out in the wild, and I, for one, will be recommending it to anyone who will listen! I can’t wait to see what’s next from this exciting and talented author.
About the author
Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. Despite always loving to write, it wasn’t until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than a much-loved hobby.
Her inspiration for her first book came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son – testing and fascinating in equal measure – and the research she did to try to understand him better.
She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and two young sons. When not writing, she loves travelling, snowboarding and photography.
You can find Rachel over on Twitter
Thank you for taking the time to read my review. As always, a little like or share to spread the word is always most appreciated. Do check out the other fabulous blogger stops on the Saturdays At Noon blog tour…