Book Review: Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession

What kind of things do they usually ask? I’ve never had an interview before…’

In general, they usually like to know if you’re a born leader, a visionary and a can-do sort of person.’

I suppose there are probably lots of things I could do if were to try them, but generally I don’t try them, so maybe I’m more of a could-don’t person?’

Leonard and Hungry Paul

Leonard and Hungry Paul are two men who live quiet and solitary lives of family routines and board games. Leonard, who has just lost his mum, works writing encyclopaedias but does not recognised for his talent. Hungry Paul lives at home with his parents, picking up shifts with the Post Office when he can, but otherwise enjoying his own world and company.

The book is full of beautiful, and often humorous, observations of ordinary people in normal situations. One of my favourite descriptions of Hungry Paul, for example, was that he “lived on a knife edge between a passion for board games and an aversion to instruction booklets” which made me chuckle. I also think Hession so wonderfully captured Leonard’s childhood with his mother, in the following:

His mother understood with intuitive good sense that children like Leonard just need someone to listen to them. They would set off to the shops discussing conger eels and have a deep conversation about Saturn’s moons on the way back; they would talk about tidal waves at bath time, and say goodnight with a quick chat about the man with longest fingernails in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Leonard and Hungry Paul

The book is set in the lead up to a wedding (Grace, Hungry Paul’s sister’s wedding). From seeing my friends get married, and the full myriad of things they have had to organise for their big day, I felt there were some on-the-nose descriptions of the level of administrative skills and diary management that a wedding can require.

While the book does focus on Leonard and Hungry Paul, there are some chapters that describe the other members of Hungry Paul’s family. His mum and dad and their competitiveness over University Challenge, for example, but I also enjoyed the chapters about Grace and her life leading up to the wedding. It was also interesting to see the juxtaposition of Grace’s busy corporate job compared to Hungry Paul doing his own thing and how everyone chooses to live their lives differently.

At its heart Leonard and Hungry Paul is a story about friendship and family. It’s a gentle and funny book about being ordinary and what happens if you let go of trying to control everything: just be ok to just go with the flow knowing that nothing and no one needs to be fixed.

What I learned is that everyone in your life has an invisible number on their foreheads, which represents the number of times you will see them again. It might be zero or one, or it could be a thousand, but it’s a number: We don’t have unlimited time with people. I don’t mean that in a morbid way. It’s a lesson for us to appreciate people while we can.

Leonard and Hungry Paul

Leonard and Hungry Paul is published by Bluemoose Books and I just want to mention them because they are an independent publisher based in Hebden Bridge (which is in West Yorkshire, not far from me) and I do this with no sponsorship or affiliate link, just purely because I enjoy them and their books so much.

Bluemoose Books publish books that are genuinely different from the crowd. As they say, “If you’re looking for orange headed celebrity books” you’ve gone to the wrong place, “but if you want brilliant stories that have travelled from Hebden Bridge, across the border into Lancashire, down to London across to Moscow, Sofia and Budapest… India, Colombia and Greenland…” then they are the publisher for you. They have a great Twitter page full of information about their books and also what it is like to be an independent publisher. Every time I go on their website, a new book pops out at me as one that I need to add to my ‘to-be-read’ list (I’m thinking Captain Jesus next).

They also published Should We Fall Behind which was recently featured on the BBC’s Between the Covers (a programme which is also excellent and, in my opinion, should be a full hour at least to properly get into the books). So I do encourage you to go and check them out for something a little different to read and enjoy (I’ll put the link below).

As for Leonard and Hungry Paul, my suggestion is to read it in the garden on a sunny day with the birds singing in the background, a huge cup of tea, and a tub of Roses chocolates handy.

Link to Bluemoose Books:

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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