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My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

My Name is Leon

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One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017.The Desmond Elliott Shortlist 2017

This is such a gorgeously expressive novel, it just sings with intensity, and is impossible to put down. Nine year old Leon loves his little brother Jake and his mum, he looks after them both as best he can, when Leon and Jake have to go and live with Maureen, Leon hatches a plan. Kit de Waal writes with a beautiful, sincere energy, the simplicity of the tale told from Leon's point of view allows a complicated backdrop of emotions to shine through. At times my heart absolutely ached, yet there are also proper laughter blurting moments, and I just wanted to gather everybody up into a huge, squashy hug. The 80’s, with it’s curly wurlys, royal celebrations, and riots is the perfect setting. A gloriously motley collection of characters come to life, each and every one of them is indispensable, and each affected me in some way. ‘My Name is Leon’ is a stunning, eloquent, stinging paper-cut of a read, I fell in love with it, and in turn, it left me full of hope. ~ Liz Robinson

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016


My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you'd least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile - like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.


'A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you'd least expect to find one Publisher's description Tender and heart-breaking' -- Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

'A beautiful story told with compassion, urgency and wit' -- Stephen Kelman, author of the Booker-shortlisted 'Pigeon English

Vivid and endearing - a very powerful book' -- Emma Healey, bestselling author of 'Elizabeth is Missing

'Leon is pure goodwill in a wicked world, and he won't leave you when you put this unique book down. Authentic and beautiful, urgent and honest, this novel does what only the best do: it quietly makes room in your heart. At the end of the story I couldn't bear to close the book on Leon. I felt I was abandoning him. I wanted to talk about it straight away with someone else who'd read it, and I know a great many readers will feel the same.' -- Chris Cleave, bestselling author of 'The Other Hand'

About the Author

Kit de Waal

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a foster carer and a Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption and foster care. Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader's Choice Prize 2014. My Name is Leon is her first novel. She has two children.

Author photo © Justine Stoddart

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Book Info

Publication date

6th April 2017


Kit de Waal

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Penguin Books Ltd


288 pages


Family Drama
All Shortlists and Winners
Books of the Year 2017
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
The Desmond Elliott Prize
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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