EVENT REVIEW: Kit de Waal: My Name Is Leon

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Sunday 9th October
Palace Green Library
Review by Gabriel Brown

When a discussion is so interesting and engaging that it inspires you to buy the book,  you know it’s been a good event.

The discussion, chaired by Caroline Beck, was a fun but very informative one. The event started with a reading from My Name Is Leon, which got me interested straight away, and is what incidentally prompted me to buy a copy later on in the day.

Author Kit de Waal described her work as a love story, which especially focuses on places in which you find love and how love plays a big role in life. The section of the talk focusing on how sympathetic people would be towards her titular protagonist, Leon, or other characters in different time periods was also interesting. In fact the whole discussion revolved around subject matters that were stimulating, and as a result, instantly sparked debate.

There was lots of talk about the allotments in the book, and the significance of other such physical spaces. As a setting which, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t get used too often in literature, both I and the audience as a whole seemed curious as to why the author had placed a certain significance on this aspect. The answer was as biographical as it was thematic; Kit had owned an allotment herself, though she admitted to neglecting it somewhat.

It was amazing to hear the authenticity that was in the writing.  Kit says she, “poured her life into it” and felt like she had to do relatively little research for her narrative. In fact, her only research seems to have been in terms of accuracy and fine details; the price of a Curly Wurly, for example.

We also learned that the sequel is finished, and book three is already planned, which will see Leon grown up at 43. Of course, some degree of subtle advertising may have been going on here; a lot of people in the room – me included – seemed eager to finish My Name Is Leon, in time for the sequel releases.

Some audience questions also made for entertaining discussion. One audience member posed the question of what if Leon had been a girl? Kit says it would be easier for him to be adopted. She was also asked if she had any involvement in the audio book, to which she replied that she had asked for Lennie Henry specifically, and that when Kit went to one of the recordings, she had ended up nearly crying, as he read her work so well.