Cover Image: Contacts


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Trigger warning - this book is about suicide, it’s beautifully handled but I would suggest not reading if this is a hard topic for you. 

Contacts is a book where James Chiltern, who sends a text to his 158 phone contacts telling them he’s going to kill himself. This story follows his journey and the reaction of a handful of the contacts that receive the message. 

Wow. This book was hard to read at some times, but only because it touched on so beautifully how so many small things can affect someone’s mental health so largely and how this can affect their friends and family too. The book is heartwarming, quite funny at times and very moving. I did enjoy this book, and it’s quite quick to read, but it isn’t always a jolly read, so I think it deffo needs to be followed up by something a bit lighter!

I would recommend you read it though, and enjoy it as much as I did!
Was this review helpful?
I would like to thank the author, the publisher and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. It really made me think and I raced through it to find out what happened, I will be recommending this book to my friends.
Was this review helpful?
Mark Watson presents difficult subject matter with the story of James who has made plans to travel on the sleeper train from London-Edinburgh where he intends to end his life. At the beginning of his journey he sends a ‘send to all contacts’ text message of farewell and the reader follows James on his journey and sees the impact his message has on several of his contacts. Thought provoking, this is a novel about consequences and regrets. The responses of the people in his life both long term and recent, close and transitory are revealing about the key relationships and events in James’s life leading up to his decision, and real jeopardy of his journey make this a gripping read.
Was this review helpful?
So, coincidentally enough, I work as a suicide prevention advisor and was really looking forward to reading this novel.  The issue for me is though the use of the word commit - it's not a crime so don't use this word!  Apart from that, a mediocre read which didn't leave me routing for anyone.  I'll consider reading another Mark Watson novel but this one wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?
I was expecting this book to be written in a comedic way, as the author is more widely known as a comedian. I couldn’t have been more wrong and was pleasantly surprised.

After a catalogue of misadventures, bad luck and low self-esteem resulting in all-consuming depression, James sends texts to the 158 contacts in his mobile to say he is going to end his life. Then begins a train journey to Scotland and a race against time to stop him.

There’s a real depth to all the characters in this book and it surprised me how invested I became in them. The story is incredibly gentle and compassionate for a subject that is so harsh and emotive.

This was a poignant tale and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
Fantastic read, funny, heartbreaking and a page turner.

Mark Watson always writes compelling novels, and this one could be his best yet
Was this review helpful?
‘Contacts’ written by Mark Watson tells the story of James, a man intent on giving up on life.  When he texts all of his contacts in his phone, it sets up a chain of events.  But James is about to embark on his last ever journey and no one can find him.

Throughout the novel, we learn all about James’ relationships with his mother, his sister, his ex-girlfriend, his flatmate and his ex-boss.  We find out all about what happens when they receive the text that’s about to change their day and life as they know it.  POV in the story changes with each chapter as we learn about each character as they receive James’ text.

The secrets are soon out as we learn all about each character’s history with James.  We learn all about his struggles and why he felt like he sadly couldn’t live on no more.

This is a gripping story from beginning to end.  I felt a compete range of emotions throughout.  I laughed, I felt sad and I felt empathy for the main character and other characters such as his mother.  This book really makes you think about a person’s struggle and how much you may not know what is going on with someone in your life until it’s too late.  This book shows the importance today of how we should all try to keep in contact with each other despite struggles and the craziness of day to day life.
Was this review helpful?
Contacts has so much poignancy and a great message within it for society. It is so well-written that those pages just have to keep turning to see how it ends. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the e-book.
Please follow down to the blurb and full review.

The first sentence is a real attention grabber as eyes widen because it is is the most unexpected opening line that may make readers gasp or take a sharp-intake of breath. 158 people receive a text that will shock to the core, from James who is at that time on the London to Edinburgh train.

This is a book that displays the human condition and some of societies ills incredibly well. It’s hard-hitting and essential reading, but not just a book to read and forget, it’s one of those books that are thought-provoking and will make you think about society and people more and better. It’s about lonliness, but refreshingly, not in the older generation, but the young generation. It shows an underrated topic in such a true light. The emotions are raw and authentic.

James recalls meeting Karl in 2007 and deciding he didn’t need many contacts and now he was withdrawing somewhat on a train up to Edinburgh. It’s a deep, dark book that contains the much taboo subject of suicide in some of the narrative, which makes it essential reading, along with the lonliness, because James is essentially a lonely, intelligent young man.

The book moves onto Sally Chiltern, James sister in Melbourne and Michaela Adler, an ex, in Berlin who both receive the text message and their reactions to the unexpected message and an insight into their lives. There is also an insight to Jean Chiltern, his mum in Bristol, who is informed of the text by Sally. There is then the reactions of the other people who have also looked at their phones.

The book is so current that it even goes into characters doing the Couch to 5K and having a language app. There is some humour amongst the book. It isn’t all dark and bleak.

It is heartwarming to see the kindness of people who are trying to find James and save him from certain death and each other from such lonliness and the impact that has on people. It really raises the issue that it isn’t just the elderly, so compassionately and well and within some terrific and responsible story-telling. It reminds people that there is always someone to talk to, such as the Samaritans too.

Mark Watson, having been in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and indeed a book launch does take James into Waverley Station and into the city, which is accurately depicted. I know this as I go into Edinburgh a fair bit. It leads to the end of what is an incredibly poignant story that shows an enormous amount of humanity and hope, even when things seem to be at their bleakest. It honestly is such a strong and courageous book that I feel could, if enough people read and really think about it, could feed a lot of good into society and help people talk about their issues and to think of others differently. It’s such an amazing book and one of those rare books that I don’t think will leave me any time soon.

On another note – please don’t suffer in silence. As the book alludes to, it is never too late to reach out. Here is a link to Samaritans. It is free and confidential
Was this review helpful?
I liked the writing, I did.
And I know that if I had picked up this book a few months, or a year from now I would love it as much as I did previous books by Mark. However, this book and theme caught me at the wrong moment. Reading it was oppressing, my heart suffered in every page and I had to make a decision to put it down.

I'll give it 3 stars based on what I managed to read.
Was this review helpful?
I only knew the author as a comedian so was drawn to the book by enjoying his work. I knew that Mark was a clever wordsmith and so this book proved, it was a book that surprised me for the depth of emotion and for how thought provoking I found it. We have all had to go through times in our lives when things have felt bad but this brought home how much people can be going through without anyone knowing. 

A book that deserves to be read widely.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! Just wow!

When I read this blurb to this book, I was eager to read it. The topics can seem heavy but they are so real for many people.

All I can say is that I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this moving and emotional masterpiece. 

This book shows the depths of despair that a person can sink to, and how much that person actually means to the people whose lives they have touched. Sometimes, all this person might need is to hear those feelings.

The personal reflections from the characters in James’ life made me reflect on my own life, and the biggest lesson to be learnt here is to never let a person feel that you take them for granted... tell people often how much they mean to you. You never know, it might make a huge difference.

What a great read!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley, the publishers and the author for an ARC for this book!

I admit this book had such an interesting premise, so I was so glad to receive a copy. 

Content warnings for suicide and suicidal thoughts.

James has decided to take his own life, and in a final note to his friends, he writes a text on his phone and sends it out to his contacts (hence the title). 

Though I did enjoy the book, there were moments when the pace kind of dragged a little, and it felt a little long for me. However, I think that it does give a view of what loneliness can do to someone, how sometimes it's the little things that get you down. The novel's structure I found quite unique, in the way we receive James' text and then flashback to his past to understand his mental state. I could really sympathize with him, and Watson is particularly good at evoking empathy in his readers.

That said, I'd only recommend this if you're in a good emotional state.. It's really very sad.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed  90% of this book but I found the ending disappointing. It felt a bit rushed in the end. Everything built up nicely to a great climax but then it fizzled out for me. We got to know all the different people in James's life and how his message affected them but I wanted a bit more. I wanted to know how they dealt with the conclusion. With a tweak here and there it can be a great read. I also wanted to know a bit more about Gina and about why she made the choices she did. It was interesting to get to know all the different characters in the book and to see the different way people deal with stressful situations. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
This was a really interesting story and one that I kind of got drawn into straight away. 
I really liked reading about all the different lives affected by reading the message and the reactions from people to it.
If i have one piece of criticism, it's the ending. I'm really glad James survived and that it meant he reconnected with people - that's always how one hopes it will end for those feeling suicidal, but the subsequent suicide of the rail employee (Dawn was it? Gwen?) felt a bit shoehorned in and didn't actually add anything to the plot. It seemed very out of line with the whole story and there for shock value rather than focusing on James and his story.
Was this review helpful?
Now this is an immersive, powerful, thought-provoking read which really makes you consider your life, how you interact with others and the choices you make.

James is a polite, reserved, caring man. He doesn't drink much, he tidies up after his housemates, he helps his friends and family with their lives. 

But James has just sent a text message to his entire phonebook telling everyone that he is going to end his life. 

James isn't the sort of person to create drama or crave attention so all of his phone book know instantly that this is no joke.

Right away I was gripped. I wanted to know WOULD he do it? Would someone stop him? WHY does he feel like this? 

Mark Watson has created the most intricate detail of his life by cleverly weaving together the reactions from James' contacts - from his mother to his flatmate... and in doing so we learn about the roles they've had in James' life and how, through many little incidents, it has caused James to feel so unhappy that he wants to commit suicide. 

A lot of what we learn is about how technology is so powerful - the search for James is shared by millions, his sister in Australia is able to connect with his flatmate to help the search in the UK, technology is amazing... but technology is also dark and dangerous. It makes people feel isolated and alone, it makes them feel under pressure to be a certain way, it tricks people... and, like the final words of the book says - it is like a superpower but you have to choose it wisely. Technology can be incredible, be careful how you use it.

I loved the way this book was written. It makes you think about how just spending a minute sending a message could help someone. It makes you realise how remote we are all becoming and not even really recognising it. 

This book is incredibly well written and absorbing. Fantastic read.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this. 

After reading the synopsis I was really looking forward to it but I found it dragged and plodded along without any real sense of urgency. 

I appreciate it was a sensitive subject to write about and more books should be written to make awareness for mental health and suicide. However this book didn't grip me as I was hoping it would.
Was this review helpful?
I only knew of Mark Watson the stand up comedian, not the author,  and couldn’t help picturing the main character as him.
In these strange times the book resonated as it is so easy to withdraw from your friends and family without them noticing, completely unaware of how you are feeling.
. This book shows how all of the “contacts” react when they receive a notification of the main character’s intention to commit suicide. Unable to reach him, because he has turned his mobile phone off after dropping the bombshell, we find how his friends react, as they realise their actions or lack of may have contributed to the position they find themselves in, trying to stop the event from happening. 
Not my usual genre, but I found this to be a thought provoking read.
Was this review helpful?
Well this was a little different to what I was expecting. And not at all bad! We start on a train journey where James decides he has had enough of the world and wants out. Instead of leaving a note, he decides to write a short text explaining his actions and "sends to all". We then follow his contacts as they receive and react to the news, as well as learning what happened to James to make him get to this point in his life...
It's quite hard hitting but in a subtle way. Often it's the small things that, when they all mount up, can be more devastating to a person than a short sharp big shock... It's also quite emotional - obviously given the main subject matter - but despite the suicidal overtones, the book doesn't ever get too dark. It's also quite moralistic in nature but again not over the top. Instead of being preachy, it just hints at ways that maybe you could see the other side of an interaction with someone. See it from their point of view, see how your actions affect others even though you may not feel responsible for how they take things, you can influence their present and indeed future.
Characterisation is tricky as we see people at the height of an emotional time but all the characters we meet along the way felt real to me, especially James who I managed to connect to very early on in the book.
It's kinda obvious from the start where we would end up, and I am a bit shocked that James' friends didn't also come to the same conclusion as I did, but there you go! It's an interesting tale, and a quite important one, especially given the state of the world as we know it at the moment, and does give a bit of food for thought regarding mental health. It's a book that I am glad I read and one whose themes will stay for me a while...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
Was this review helpful?
I adored this book- it was fantastic! It feels quite Matt Haig-y in premise but the style of writing was much more real. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in one.
Was this review helpful?
Mark Watson is yet another British comedian I was surprised, yet overjoyed, to discover is a secret novelist on the side. His latest novel (seventh!) 'Contacts' has an intriguing and stirring premise. At some stages, I was worried it would get too angst ridden but Watson skilfully balances some lighter moments, and his trademark dry humour, with the serious central topics.

The protagonist, James, boards a train to Edinburgh at the beginning of the novel. Overwhelmed by recent events, a break-up, losing his best friend over a job, feeling unhappy in his body, James is on his way to take his own life. As a last act, he sends a text outlining his intentions to those who are in his phone address book before switching to flight mode. What follows is a tapestry of viewpoints, the former lover, the friend, the sister... alongside revealing the cumulative events which led to James' decision. It is a heavy topic which weighs on the heart, particularly with James being such a likeable character who has clearly had a string of horrible luck.

At first, the book was confusing with so many different viewpoints (I may have got James' sister and ex-girlfriend muddled a couple of times!) but it is rewarding to see how James has enriched so many lives, these people fighting to overcome their mistakes with regards to how they have treated him. Despite the ending coming out of nowhere, a twisted bait and switch which was not quite pulled off, the novel is ultimately heart-warming and highlights the value of speaking out when you are feeling alone.

If you are a fan of Mark Watson or enjoy cleverly structured novels about human relationships, you will definitely enjoy 'Contacts'. Four stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher who provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?