What Milo Saw – Virginia Macgregor

Sometimes in fiction you meet characters who you would do anything to avoid meeting (Dolores Umbridge, Sauron, Scrappy Doo), some that grow on you (Eeyore, Harold Fry, Mr Darcy) and some that you just want to take home and love. Milo Moon, it turns out it one of the latter sort…

what milo sawMilo is nine years old, he lives with his Mum, gran and pet pig and he misses his dad (who now lives with another woman and their new baby in Abu Dhabi). He also has a degenerative eye disease which means he sees the world as if through a pinhole camera and will, one day, lose his sight altogether. This story, however, as the title suggests is not about blindness but about what Milo sees which the adults around him miss. The best part for me was that Milo sees things more clearly not just because of his tunnel vision – that would be a little bit too twee and moralistic for my tastes – but because he is a thoughtful and loving child.

Milo can see that his mum is unhappy, she seeks solace in the biscuit tin and worries that no-one wants to be treated by an overweight beautician, and he can see that his beloved gran needs a lot of care. He can see that the care home his gran moves to is not a good place, unlike all the adults he meets apart from one, and he can see that he will have to do something about it. I love the fact that Milo is the only character who really sees what is going on because he is the only one who really, really looks. Everyone else is willfully blind to facts that they find uncomfortable…

Of course Milo is only nine so often he misinterprets what he sees and his solutions to problems are misguided but he is such a forthright and likable lad that you can’t judge him for it. As the book moves on and Milo finally gets to deal with the dastardly Nurse Thornhill – who runs the kind of nursing home which gets its own special on Panorama – the plot becomes more and more unlikely but I really didn’t mind. These serious subjects, like life, aging, love and loss, are dealt with in a slightly unrealistic and far-fetched way but, all the same, I was rooting for the good guys. I think the novel has covered very adult subjects in the way that they can be dealt with in fiction for primary-aged kids. And I kind of like the way that works. (Also, the denoument made me think somewhat of Brassed Off – always a happy thought).

If you enjoy a book which mixes up its genres, if you like to laugh and cry within a few pages or if you enjoyed Harold Fry and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time give this a try. Hopefully you’ll end up loving Milo as much as I did.

Jane

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