It’s also about Hill’s relationship with the comedian Jack Black, whom we also never hear from directly
Following a man who returns to his childhood home to care for his dying father, this comedic and painful novel is an unexpected delight
A fter a decade, the Not the Booker prize still has the ability to produce surprises. I would never have predicted that the most interesting and original book on this year’s shortlist would be something like Hello Friend We Missed You, because Richard Owain Roberts’ book is wonderfully unlike anything else.
Take the premise: it’s about the relationship of a man called Hill with a father whom he refuses to call father (preferring the name Roger). Roger has no dialogue (other than the odd prolonged coughing fit) and we never see him alongside Hill. All this inaction takes place on Ynys Mon (the author doesn’t like the name Anglesey), Hill’s childhood home, where he has returned in order to take care of Roger, who has an unspecified but seemingly terminal illness. Although we never see the two men communicating directly, we learn a great deal about them, almost by accident, as memories float into Hill’s mind. We also get to see a few old and apparently trivial emails Roger has sent to Hill, including his underachieving son’s old school reports (“I could spend all day reading them, they do make me laugh”).
Meanwhile, Hill is striking up a relationship with Roger’s carer Trudy, largely based on tucking into cans of cheap lager and laughing at themselves saying stupid things, such as: “Lil Naz X [sic] is this generation’s Frank Sinatra.” And it is a good job Trudy is around, because Hill is in the doldrums. His wife has died and his career as a screenwriter is stalling. We’re told Jack Black’s production company has shown interest in some material he’s written, but this has got stuck in development hell.Read More