My dear bookish friends,
Today I have for you a review of a very eye-opening book – a story that follows a young man on a very special journey: from the streets of his UK hometown to Europe and even farther abroad. You go with him through his ups and downs, see his hardships, his hopes and dreams and desires, and I know this book will stay with me for a while. Please keep reading to find out more about the book, and for my detailed review!
Also, a big thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for my spot on the tour, and my ecopy of the book, which did in no way influence my rating.
Based on the author’s own experiences of leaving home and travelling across Europe on less than a pound a day, These Walls Were Never Really There is a compelling true story described by publishing editors as ‘immersive and moving’ and ‘a potential prizewinner in the making’.
Initially set in the heart of Manchester’s homeless community, These Walls follows twenty-year-old Cameron, who is propelled on a physical and spiritual journey which will take him far from the life he once knew.
A surprising story about mental health, friendship and redemption, this compelling debut will take you on a journey across Europe and beyond, as Cameron and his travelling companion Jacob navigate perilous border crossings, packs of wolves, and the harsh realities of life on the road.
Set against the backdrop of the emerging Arab Spring, Cameron and Jacob will have their friendship pushed to its limits as they find themselves trapped thousands of miles away from home…
At twenty years old, Cameron is not happy with his life. His parents are separated, his father is an alcoholic, his mother receiving treatment for her mental problems. He has little hope for the future, and neither an outlook on what it might look like. The overriding impression is that he just feels trapped.
Feeling dejected and being certain of nothing but the fact that he needs to get away, Cam runs away from his home and out into the world. What follows is a story of hardships and wonder, desperation and hope, yearning and learning.
In some ways, the start of this book vaguely reminds me of the same sort of desire or atmosphere that you find at the start of the great classic Robinson Crusoe. A young man feeling trapped by his life, his surroundings, the lack of interest or hope in ever amounting to anything in his home town, just deciding he needs to go. To get out of there and see the world. It’s nice to see this kind of vibe in a contemporary setting.
The author has a lovely personal style of writing. You can just settle in and let him talk to you like he is an old friend of yours, telling you about his life and journey. It’s very easy to feel for Cameron, as you begin to see the journey through his eyes. It is a journey that sees him meet a diverse group of individuals. At first, in the streets of the UK – the tough, but kind-hearted Tony, the unpleasant ruffian Sam, Tatum, his four-legged furry friend. You feel with him as he experiences the unfairness of what happens on the streets, before he manages to flee further afield.
As he continued his journey I did feel a little frustrated with his character. An old friend he meets one day appeared to provide him with the chance of getting a job – and ultimately changing his life – but he ran from it. And then he just keeps on running, like running off a cliff, with I guess hardly any money. I often found myself wondering how much money Cameron had to just keep going, especially when he ended up abroad.
It’s the sort of actions that just feel foolish and self-destructive, and make you want to give Cameron a good shaking and talking to. You do feel for him and root for him, but equally you begin to feel like he is his own worst enemy. When he meets Jacob things just steadily go from bad to worse for him, with one bad decision after another leading him basically towards a warzone (possibly quite literally).
These Walls Were Never Really There is a book that left me thinking that Cameron was the sort of person who just lived in the moment, not really a person made for the modern world – a person with an internal aversion to responsibility combined with a desire for either adventure, exploration, or just flight. This is the kind of book that makes you think of the unfairness of the world, but also the endless possibilities that might be waiting out there.
4.5 stars from me, and highly recommended!
Thank you all so much for reading!