My Brother Simple
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This issue’s cover illustration by Steve Stone is from Darke by Angie Sage. Thanks to Bloomsbury for their help with this July cover.
By clicking here you can view, print or download the fully artworked Digital Edition of BfK 195 July 2012 .
A novel featuring a young adult male with the mentality of a three-year-old could have been harrowing. But miraculously this French author has written a story that is moving and funny without ever being insensitive. Simple, the adult in question, is being looked after by his younger 17-year-old brother Kleber, who can’t bear the idea that his amiably high-maintenance sibling should return to the institution that he so clearly hates. Sub-renting a room in a student flat, the two gradually win round the four others who already live there. Like Dostoevsky’s Idiot, Simple has a way of blurting out home truths uncomfortable at the time but later on more appreciated. But he can also be a terrible nuisance, guilelessly stealing or destroying objects that have momentarily taken his attention. Readers suffer with Kleber when such things happen, and it is by no means certain at the end that however fond everyone else has become of Simple that he will be able to live with them indefinitely. The others have their own private agendas too, which means that Simple does not dominate every page. Feeling without becoming sentimental, never playing down the difficulties of coming to an accommodation with extreme learning difficulties, this is a book to cherish. In 1899 the best-selling British novel The Lunatic at Large poked fun at the mentally unstable. This present compassionate story is one measure of how far we have come since then.