The unforgettable new book from award-winning writer and comedian Mark Watson!
'Mark Watson is one of my favourite writers and Contacts is by far his best book yet' Adam Kay
‘Witty, emotional and beautifully written’ Jill Mansell
‘It made me laugh, cry, reflect and want to check in on all my friends’ Emma Gannon
'This is such a great book, funny and serious and daring and humane' Richard Curtis
‘Funny, heartwrenching, beautifully written’
At five to midnight in Euston station, James Chiltern sends one text to all 158 people in his contacts. A message saying goodbye.
Five minutes later, with two pork pies and a packet of chocolate digestives in his pocket, he disappears.
Across the world, 158 phones light up. Phones belonging to James’s friends, his family, people he’s lost touch with. All of them now wondering, where has James gone? What happened to him? And more importantly, can they find him before it’s too late?
Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 150 members
The subject of this book is a difficult one: suicide. The main character, James Chiltern has sent out a message to all his contacts on his phone, saying he is going to commit suicide, whilst he travels on a sleeper train to Edinburgh. I hasn't to add, this is something he's planned. Some of his closest 'contacts' react to this overnight; trying to find him and stop him. The cleverly written story shares his moving backstory and how he's come to this time of despair. This was a very powerful novel and I came away reminding myself to keep in touch with others; particularly those who are quieter. It is too easy for people to say "I'm okay' even when they are suffering inside. At this time of the lockdown, and financial uncertainty, this book is a prompt to reach out and be kind. I highly recommend it. I haven't read any of Mark Watson's books before but will look out for them. Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair unbiased review.
Funny but frank, moving (you’ll need tissue before long) and tender, this is the story of James Chiltern who plans to end his life. He gets on a train from London to Edinburgh with some snacks, and sends a message to everyone in his contacts – 158, if you’re inquisitive – telling him what he plans to do. Importantly, he turns his phone to flight mode, not wishing to be disturbed. Across the world, people are waking up to the news, or being alerted at work, or at play and each wonder what they can do to help. His mum worries, his sister wants to organise, his housemate is on a mission, his ex girlfriend feels helpless. James’s back story is beautifully woven throughout and I was surprised to feel the depth of emotion while reading it. It doesn’t feel gratuitous in any way, it’s calm, clear and really cleverly written.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book as the main topic of suicide is often a difficult one to write about, however was dealt with well. I also thought that the some of the other topics around weight issues, job loss and relationship problems were all written about with compassion and understanding. It’s a unique book that will stay with me for a while. My only negative is the ending; it finished abruptly and didn’t bring together all the topics and storylines that were so well developed throughout the book.
My thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for a copy of “Contacts” for an honest review. I hadn’t read anything by Mark Watson before and was only aware of his work as a comedian, which is why I chose to read this . It took me a little while to get into this book , but I’m glad I persevered. What could have been a bleak tale of loneliness and an impending suicide was told with humour and well written characters, that made you care about the outcome and how they would all react to James’s text . A thought provoking read.
A story about human interactions, their outcomes, their past stories, and that unites them, with the protagonist, when their cell phones light up and show a message, the story begins, you do not know how it will end, you are on the edge of the story with the character, becomes one with the story and we unravel with the story until its end. It was a great read, I loved the focus and the way it was written.
A book about suicide a book on an emotional heart wrenching subject.James texts to say he is going to commit suicide.From that moment we are woven into his life we hear his friends feelings about James his issues and I read through hoping he would be saved .A book I will be recommending,#netgalley#harpercollinsuk
I really enjoyed reading this book, the storyline kept me guessing on how it would end - would James take his own life or would the collective support that had gathered virtually, reach him in time. The story had varying perspectives from his friends and family and how each are/were woven into James' life. The text message they received from James shone a spotlight on them in and forced them to look at their own role in how James ended up where he did. This was all done without any finger pointing or blaming, just an introspection on their part which was very refreshing. I would have liked an epilogue to tie up some some loose ends because I did end the book wanting to know what happens next but overall, it was a good story that held my attention to the very end.
I really enjoyed this book, even with its heavy storyline. The cast of characters really made this book feel as if you were completely immersed in James' world. I think this book would be a great selection for a book club as it raises lots of interesting questions about both the book and life in general. Will certainly be recommending it in my library.
Contacts is such an interesting concept. The whole idea of sending a ‘ Suicide note‘ to everyone on your contact list is so thought provoking. A cry for help or a last goodbye - in times of crisis people do strange things. The impact of this message on everyone was the real gift in this book- a little message to say you are loved, Or a request to reach out and get help. I found this book fascinating- little bits of humour wound around a very serious topic. If you learn one thing from this book, it would have to be- people do care about you, even if you’ve not heard from them in years.
I love Mark Watson's stand-up comedy so I was eagerly anticipating his latest novel, despite it being on the topic of suicide. Whilst this is clearly a difficult subject to tackle, Watson does so with tact, sensitivity and without becoming too dark or heavy. In fact, parts of the novel are funny and uplifting. All the characters, from the main protagonist James, to his best friend, roommate, ex-girlfriend, sister and mother are all well written and relatable. By experiencing the perspectives of these characters and the struggles they are experiencing, we are able to build a picture of their lives and what has in turn lead James to his heartbreaking decision. Watson writes beautifully, helping the reader not only understand and appreciate James' decision, but also to see the thoughts and flaws of his family and friends and understand why they have been hesitant to reach out or brush off any concerns despite the love and empathy they have for James. Something that is all to easy to do in real life. I did feel that the ending was a little abrupt and I would have liked an extra chapter on the immediate aftermath in order to have a truly satisfying end and to answer a few remaining questions but I appreciate that this wasn't necessary to fully enjoy the story. Overall, a moving, honest and touching story. Written beautifully with relatable and interesting characters. Recommended. Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the ARC.
I have been intrigued by the synopsis from the very beginning. Even though I was aware that this book can only end in two possible ways, I wanted to know what the author chose. The story follows a train journey of a lonely middle-aged man for whom everything that could go wrong turned out even worse. He decides to warn everyone in his contacts about his planned suicide and turning the phone off only focuses on his plan and his snacks. The story is told with multiple perspectives of people who got James's message. Some of them don't care, some care more than they would ever imagine and mainly his close ones start to think about the way James is important for their life. I think the story is quite sweet and shows the connection between people in a very subtle but powerful way. I like the storyline with his ex and her way of coping with the message. Overall, I have enjoyed reading this book and I think that it is a pleasing read for almost everyone.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, and was slightly apprehensive as the topic is suicide, which can be very difficult to portray with sensitivity. I was impressed though how the characters and storyline kept it light hearted enough, yet delved into the mind of James and all the important people in his life and how they had affected him, and all combined to bring him to the point he was at. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Touching and wryly amusing. James has reached the zenith of what crap he can take. He's lost his girlfriend, sister, best friend, his job and self respect. So he's decided it's the end and sends a message to all his contacts to tell them. As he switches off his phone he realises he's dropped a bomb but he doesn't realise it's a nuclear one thats shockwaves will be felt across continents. Suicide as the main subject of a novel doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs and let's face it needs to be handled with extreme care. Luckily it's in safe hands with Mark Watson. The story is of a man who has no one and how he got there. James is possibly one of the loveliest characters I've ever read. From start to finish I rooted for him, and got through the last chapters peeping from behind my hands as I really wanted him to change his mind! I may have got too invested but I couldn't help it. The way the story evolved and revealed itself was excellent. In summary a great story that will stay in my mind for a long time.
Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC of this book. I have an enormous amount of good will towards Mark Watson. He is one of my favourite comedians and he has a nervous, vulnerable energy which makes him difficult to criticise. His books always have intelligent concepts and he writes in an understated, observational, wry manner. He brings clear elements of his own personality into his books. For example, this book is about a man who is planning to commit suicide, was written following a period of mental struggle for Watson when he had struggled with alcohol use following the break up of his marriage. It feels very personal, even though the character’s struggles are different to Watson’s own experience. I feel somewhat protective towards Watson, knowing that he has been going through a difficult time and he chose to write about suicide as a result, The book starts with the lead character, James, texting his entire phone contacts list to tell them he is planning suicide. It then follows several of the people who receive this text and their reactions as they try to find a way to prevent his suicide. It’s an interesting premise, although makes the book harder to get into as each new chapter from a new person’s perspective feels a bit like starting the book afresh. The book is a study of how important human contacts are, how our actions affect each other, how important it is to stay in contact with each other and how mobile phones and social media, which have the potential to make us more in contact with our loved ones than ever before can somehow have the opposite result. It is an intelligent look at what might make a person suicidal, how the build up of small things can affect our mental health so that from the outside something which seems trivial may be the tipping point too another person’s mental well-being. It is not particularly exciting to read and the ending is fairly predictable apart from an event involving a train conductor which I felt was jarring and required more explanation, although I think that’s probably the point of its inclusion. However, if you like Mark Watson’s voice and his frustrated, witty observations you will also like this book. I struggle to say enjoy as it is hard to enjoy a book with suicide as once of its central themes. The audiobook is read by Mark Watson himself. I think this is probably a mistake, he has a slightly odd way off speaking, so that, even though he wrote the words, it sometimes sounds like he is putting the emphasis on the wrong part of the sentence. He doesn’t really make much of an attempt to do the accents required, so it probably would have been better to get a professional, experienced narrator to read the book. His narration doesn’t impair the enjoyment of the book but I feel a professional may have been able to breathe a bit more life into the narration.
I was intrigued to see how the difficult topic of suicide would be handled in this book and hoped it wouldn’t be lightly skipped over in some emotionally manipulative way. I needn’t have worried - Mark Watson handles the subject with humour, certainly, but also with a deft sympathy for all the characters. The basic premise is that James Chiltern gets on a train to Edinburgh, sends a Goodbye message to all his contacts in his phone, then switches it to Flight Mode so he can’t be swayed by the responses. His friends and family are spread all over the world, so they are all doing different things when they get the message. For some, it has little impact, but the story hones in on the few who do react. How they react is, in some cases, not as you would expect. There are those for whom it sparks off more of a self-centred and helpless reaction than you (or James, if he wasn’t so deep in his suicidal depression) might wish. Others, perhaps more tangentially linked to James’ life really step up to find him and stop him killing himself, using the same power of social media that he has used for his final missive. I found James the least interesting character. He’s on the night train, with his snacks and his own thoughts, determined that this journey will be his final one. His sister finds it hard to snap out of the life she has built thousands of miles away, his ex girlfriend justifiably feels dragged back into the life she walked out of. His best friend isn’t being entirely honest until the end of the book. His flatmate is pulling out all the stops to find him - maybe she can do this because there is little history between them and so she is able to be more focused. I wasn’t sure about the ending, to be honest, but I won’t get into Spoiler territory. It didn’t seem as realistic as the rest of the book, but then again, maybe the point is that we can never know what other people are going through.
I enjoyed this. James is a young man, disillusioned with his life, and he sets out a plan to jump from a bridge in Edinburgh and end his life. To that effect, he boards the sleeper train from London and sends a text message to all his contacts telling them goodbye before he pops flight mode on. The story follows the timeline of his train journey, with his contacts soon networking to work out where he might be and try to save him - from his flat-mate, his ex-girlfriend, his estranged sister in Australia, a whole cast of diverse characters with different relationships with James. Initially I found this book quite slow to get into, but then I spent a couple of hours with it and found reading it quicker helped, it made the pace of the train journey more realistic. All in, a good read, a story which shows how even those who appear stable from the outside are inwardly fragile, and how there exists such good in humanity.
A funny and honest look at suicide, mental health and what-ifs. This was a great read, I loved how the story unfolded from everyone’s point of view, James’, his ex, his sister, friend and mum. It made thinking about how James’ suicide “text” would effect all his people easy. Giving each point of view and strategy of how to save him. I thought the backstory about his Dad’s death and his relationship with Michaela were really important in showing James’ downward spiral. I did find the ending a little rushed after such a detailed build up but I wonder if this is actually purposefully done to show the build up of mental health issues and how quickly and how final suicidal thoughts and suicide can happen. Overall I thought this book was relevant, it was easy to read even though it deals with such strong issues and I thought the level of humour was just right.
A good book with believable characters. Well written. I did find it a bit slow going, but it is full of heart.
A suicide note email. Sent to all contacts. James, a 40-year-old programmer/chauffeur has lost his job, his girlfriend and himself. He is on the sleeper to Edinburgh where he plans to kill himself. The “send to all” is not a call for attention, he has made his decision. Once he’s sent the email, he switches his phone to flight mode, so that he cannot be contacted. What will the reaction of the 158 addressees be, if any? Some are closely connected with him, at least on the surface, some are only fleeting acquaintances. “So their reactions would be fished out of the first-aid kit everyone had for dramas.” A straight, simple enough plotline, you think? Think again! This book is cleverly constructed, boxing up different threads of the storyline Babushka-style. It teases just the right amount and pulls back at the precise moment in the narrative to make you scream “Tell me! Tell me now!”. The juxtaposition of our modern world of electronic connectivity versus personal isolation is described with painful accuracy. The layers of the past, the reasonings, old feuds and happy memories mingle with the train’s journey, James’s thoughts and the thoughts and actions of the people in his address list. Is this an inevitable journey from despair to oblivion or is there more at play? PS And if you don’t have to scroll back to solve the phone mystery, you’re cleverer than me!
Novel about life and death. James is adamant to commit a suicide, so he sends a farewell message to all of his phone contacts. Different perspectives, interesting characters, who and how will they help James? Very thoughtfully written.
Thank you for the advanced copy of this book. Such a difficult subject to tackle and done so superbly by the way each characters story unravels showing their own journeys and current issues and their link to James. The opening chapters regarding the text being sent written beautifully and you cannot help but try and put yourself in the same position.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, suicide is such a difficult topic to explore but this one really pulled at the heartstrings in all the right ways. James is on the sleeper train from London to Edinburgh, when he gets to Edinburgh he intends to end his life. At the start of the journey he sends a message to all the contacts in his phone explaining his plans before turning it to airplane mode. The book follows James and those closest to him as they respond to this. Through each of the important relationships in his life we gain an increasing insight into James’ life and what lead him to his decision. This is done very well, creating a complex picture that allows you to understand and respect his decision whilst also wanting the opportunity to tell him all the ways his life is still worth living! The supporting characters, James’ friends and family, are also well portrayed. Switching between their perspectives allows you to understand what they are going through at the time of receiving the message and the burdens that each of them carry through their own lives. All of them are flawed in very human and recognisable ways and while none of them are solely responsible, at times they each consider what they could have done differently to help James. Despite the clearly serious themes of this book it never felt too heavy or dark. The book feels very honest about life and how easily it can sometimes get away from you which is refreshing. There are also plenty of uplifting moments throughout, from the recollection of good memories from James’ past to the efforts of others to help in the present. Another element to this story that I felt was well done was the commentary on the modern world, in particular mobile phones and social media. Both the negatives and positives of living in a more connected world are highlighted but not dwelt on, so while the sentiments are clear it never felt forced. It fits into the narrative just as mobiles and the internet have slotted into our daily lives. I did feel the ending was a little abrupt, perhaps because of the build up and threads that were all coming together so well beforehand. I have lots of unanswered questions, some that I can understand but a couple that just left me feeling the book wasn’t quite over. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
James Chiltern, the novelist's protagonist, is a character that is very likeable and easy to identify with. A quiet, ordinary everyman; overweight, around forty, lonely after a spell of bad luck in his relationships, and stuck in an unrewarding job as a ticket seller at Euston station. He's also kind hearted and self-effacing, and suicidal. The novel opens with James boarding the overnight sleeper train to Edinburgh, having decided to end his life at the spot he scattered his father's ashes. He sends a text to all 158 numbers in his phone's contacts, saying goodbye, and switches off his phone to spend his last night alone with beer and biscuits. Meanwhile, his friends, family and acquaintances are left reeling from his message and start to both reflect on their relationships with James, and try desperately to find him and prevent his death. It sounds like a melodramatic concept, which in a way it is, but it's not handled in that way. Mark Watson is good at writing about ordinary people and ordinary lives and avoids any hysteria. The problems that have led James to this dark place are not extraordinary soap-opera like traumas. They are the sort of commonplace everyday sorrows and disappointments that will come to everyone. And herein lays the power of the book's underlying message. James is an ordinary man, like many ordinary men that we know, and is driven to attempt suicide. Male suicide is a significant problem in the UK and a novel that tackles it is welcome. All too often stories about mental health go for the most dramatic causes, this one avoids that. Like many real male suicide victims, the people James knows are unaware of his misery - he's kept going in his quiet, unassuming way, until he can't keep going any longer. The other characters are also believable. There's James' mother, his sister, his ex-girlfriend, his flatmate, and his best friend. None of them are cardboard villains - just ordinary people with their own lives and worries and their own side to the story of their relationships with James. Some have treated him worse than others, but none of them are utterly awful. The girlfriend who was always less keen on him than he was on her - should she have stayed with him even though she was unhappy? The sister whom he let down and lost touch with. The flatmate who made little effort to get to know him. Virtually everyone reading is going to fall into at least one of those categories themselves in one relationship or other. Not only do we all know someone a bit like James, we also can see all of ourselves in the people who receive his final message and find themselves in a horrible position of fear and guilt. It's not a story that offers easy answers, but it is full of warmth and humanity and the recognition that human beings are fallible and deserving of patience and second chances. As James continues his journey towards potential oblivion, the tension naturally increases and it's a gripping read. But the best thing about it remains the compassion towards people that shines through the writing and that ultimately makes it a book that restores your faith in people - and perhaps makes you think a bit harder about the people in your own life that need reaching out to.
A beautiful yet heartbreaking story. At first I thought how could a story set on a train journey keep me interested? I was wrong. This was captivating and I read the whole thing in one night. It could easily be the tale of someone we know our even ourselves. Noone really knows what goes on behind people's smiles. A heartbreaking and heartwarming book that makes you try that bit harder with the people around you.
Contacts is a funny, frank, and moving novel that touches on issues such as suicide, in an honest, serious but funny way, which makes the message of the story hit hard. An original and touching read.
Intense. Overwhelming. Grounding. Uplifting? I expected a lot from this book just from the blurb. The concept is incredibly potent for the current focus on mental health, and the impact that technology has on it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, but enjoyed seems the wrong word to use when it detailed so many difficult mental situations that it may as well have been a true reflection on life. This is a book that gives pause for thought, but not even so much on the mental health aspect as I had expected, now as I sit here pondering it I’m questioning my use of technology and how it has been used for good, as well as for bad. Colour my intrigued.
This a novel which has really stayed with me and I have thought of often since finishing it. Our main character James sends a text message to everyone in his contacts that he is going to kill himself and then puts his phone on airplane mode. What follows is many different disparate people reflecting on how their actions led James to this point and how they could have behaved differently while also being part of a large group trying to find and save James. This a very difficult topic dealt with in a sensitive, responsible but still hard htting way.
Contacts by Mark Watson. Wow – I wasn't expecting what I just read! This is one of those books that stays with you long after you've finished reading, and for that reason it gets the full five stars from me. Increadibly sad, moving, yet also uplifting and humorous at the same time. James Chiltern is on the sleeper train from London to Edinburgh and like most of us, the first thing he does is get out his phone. He sends the same message to all of the contacts in his phone, that he is going to end his life. This isn't a cry for help where James is expecting his contacts to try and dissuade him, he turns off his phone (eventually dumping it completely) and heads towards his end. There is no drama, he just wants to opt out of life. The book covers the period while James is on the train and how the most important contacts in his phone react to the message. The book was very powerful in showing that we might not have many meaningful contacts in our life at any one time, but even just a few contacts are supremely important and you mean more than you realise to people. * Thanks to Harper Collins and Netgalley for the ARC.