‘An astonishing debut, ‘Love, Love Me Do’ is utterly original, completely unique, deeply touching and has a universal appeal that will resonate with men and women alike.’ Piatkus.
It is 1963. The year the Beatles first top the charts. The year Martin Luther King has a dream. The year Truman Bird moves his family from their home in Brighton to a dilapidated caravan in the Ashdown Forest – then disappears.
Truman’s a charmer, a chancer, a liar. He’s always got away with it, too. But now he’s gone a dangerous step too far and only has one day to put things right – before he loses everything.
For Truman’s wife, Christie, life has not turned out the way she’d imagined. How has she, that young girl of not that many years ago, ended up like this? In a caravan. With three children. And an absent husband.
Honest and unsettling, yet ultimately uplifting, this unique, wise and addictive British debut weaves themes of love, betrayal, family and childhood, and shows that even though life has a habit of getting in the way of dreams, people find their own extraordinary ways of bouncing back.
LOVE, LOVE ME DO is available as a paperback and as a Kindle edition.
‘In a story of laughter and tears, Haysom takes us on one family’s journey to achieve their dreams, and shows us that for every lie and secret in every family, there is also a love. And in the end it’s love that counts.’ Piatkus.
The party of the sixties is well and truly over and what’s left is the hangover. It’s 1973 – a time of unemployment, picket lines, the IRA. There’s violence on football terraces, a crash on the stock market. But it’s also a time when you can imagine the stars.
And so enter the Bird family…
Baxter – the first Bird to go to university. It’s fresher’s week and a new beginning. But his past isn’t ready to let him go. And worse, it’s followed him right into the lecture hall.
Christie – haunted by what’s gone before and held back by heartbreak. But with her son succeeding against the odds it’s now her turn to follow her dreams. Until the husband she’d thought she was rid of walks back into her life.
Truman – husband to Christie and father to Baxter. After a ten-year absence he decides he’s owed a second chance. And to help him on his way he’s found a golden key that will open every door. Or so he believes.
IMAGINE is available as a paperback and as a Kindle edition.
ireadnovels, October 30 2014
‘A fabulously unique debut’
Set in the 60s this is the most original, funny, wise, dark and touching family drama you will read all year. A fabulously unique debut.
Annabel’s House of Books, October 14 2014
‘An intriguing novel … I really enjoyed it’
By ANNABEL GASKELL
Looking at the title and cover of this book, I was expecting something light-hearted, a little bit sixties rock’n’roll, a bit Nick Hornby-ish if you will – and involving a caravan. Well the last bit was right, less so the others.
The title, that of the Beatles’ first hit single, is an anchor in time, and the book opens in 1963, Friday August the 2nd at 5.24am to be precise.
Young Baxter is dreading that later today he might have to go on a day-trip home to Brighton with his father. His mum, Christie, had said it’d be a good thing to have some time with his father, but Baxter doesn’t want to go – he wants to stay in the caravan, play in the grass and go and see Soldier in the woods.
A few hours later, Christie is again wondering why her husband Truman had sprung a surprise holiday on them – in a caravan on the edge of the Ashdown forest fifty miles inland from their home – and then abandoned them there without a car to go to work.
It turns out that apart from be a charmer, Truman is a liar and a chancer, although Christie doesn’t know any of it. He’s a small-time con-man with an eye for the ladies and has a couple of mistresses on the go as well as Christie and their three children. He owes Mr Smith five grand – big money in those days. He had to do a disappearing act, hence the caravan, but he needs to go home – hence taking the boy with him for insurance. Mr Smith’s heavies can’t touch him with the boy…
What he doesn’t know is that Mr Smith has put Strachan on his trail. Strachan is a different class of heavy, older and looking to retire, well dressed – ‘You may not always be the best-looking man in the room,’ [his ma] she’d say to him, ‘but you can always be the man looking his best.’
The only character we’ve not really met yet is Soldier. He’s a tramp that lives in the woods, an ex-military man, obviously suffering from post traumatic stress even now although WWII ended 18 years ago. He talks to no-one, but Mrs. Chadney in the nearby farmhouse keeps an eye on him. 8-yr-old Baxter befriends him, and unbeknownst to Christie, Soldier is keeping an eye out for their safety too from the woods.
The story is told through the events of this single day, with lots of flashbacks to fill us in on the detail. We’ll find out about each of the five, their hopes and fears, their motivations, their searching for love – of whatever kind is on offer.
Christie, Baxter, Truman, Strachan and Soldier, each take turns in moving the story on through the day, each adding to the suspense. Will there be a showdown between Strachan and Truman at the end of the day? With the location setting, the build-up echoes Greene’s Brighton Rock a little – and we’ll get to find out a lot about Truman before the day is done.
This may be a debut novel, but Haysom is a newspaper man of long-standing and puts that to good use in an intriguing novel that is far more serious and far better than its cover would suggest. I really enjoyed it. (8.5/10)
The Star of Malaysia, October 7 2014
‘Mark Haysom’s heartbreaking debut novel’
By TASHNY SUKUMARAN
An ordinary tale of a family struggling to make ends meet is delivered with telling effect.
THE Beatles’ first single, 1962’s Love Me Do, is a strikingly teenage effort – a promise to stay true, a vow of everlasting love and sweetness. But the same cannot be said of British author Mark Haysom’s debut novel, Love, Love Me Do – named for the song and also set in the 1960s – a powerful, exhausting story of both the frailness and strength of human hearts.
Truman Bird, a lying layabout of a man, forces his wife Christie and their children from their Brighton home into a crummy caravan parked in the Ashdown forest under the guise of a summer holiday.
But six weeks on he’s nowhere to be seen; he’s seeking out borrowed money and solace in unfamiliar arms on the road, while his wife cooks, cleans and worries in an “idiotic caravan in this hateful forest.”
(After all, Truman never really wanted children, it seems.)
Love, Love Me Do is not a little bit difficult to read: Truman’s casual, callous mistreatment of his own family is offputting and raises hackles. With minimal effort, Haysom has you by the heartstrings, picking a side and hoping for better days.
The language is clean, everyone has a voice that’s simple yet striking; an instinctive sympathy for Christie gives your heart pangs while Truman’s narration raises your hackles and earns much deserved disgust.
Out for an easy ride, Truman is constantly looking for money he can get without putting any work in and his fast talking ways make hardworking, bright Christie (whose dreams of going to college were shattered by a cynical mother, whose career was stopped short by a bullying husband) even more the heroine of this novel.
Although Love, Love Me Do professes to speak of 1960s and British places like Brighton and Sussex, it is a story that could be set anywhere at any time – 1980s Malaysia, for instance – and that will hit unsettlingly close to home for anyone who has struggled to make ends meet.
Christie’s children, too, are elegantly fleshed-out and three-dimensional without trying too hard. Baxter’s confusion and eagerness for a father who is present, who cares, makes for compelling reading (“If he could just get used to the way the boy looked at him with his mother’s eyes,” thinks Truman, “maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to spend some time with him”) while wild-eyed wide-smiling Megan will remind female readers of the moment they, as girls, realised the world will not treat them fairly as women.
The caravan, where much of Christie’s pain is played out, is threadbare and cramped, her tasks are minute in their scale but somehow so much more tiring in the confined space, especially with a fretting, teething baby.
And watching over the crummy caravan and its four occupants is a mysterious Soldier, a leftover of war living in the forest who swears to be their grizzled guardian angel in a stained, dark coat.
His companionship with Baxter is warm and real, the revelations heartbreaking (“it was the best day,” Baxter says of an afternoon spent making model trains with his father, “the only best day”) – there’s so much loss in love, and Haysom captures the hundreds of everyday betrayals just as vividly as the big ones.
Of course, no love story is complete without gangsters: a notorious gangster is on the hunt for Truman, who has finally bitten off more than he can talk his way out of. The wolfish Strachan, strangely honourable despite his line of work, quickly makes the scores that need settling personal.
What makes Love, Love Me Do so superb is how everyone in it (save Truman) has a heart, which carries with it a pity beyond all telling – hearts, after all, are not so sturdy … except when they are. From Christie to Strachan to Soldier and his sad story, Love, Love Me Do carries with it all the heartbreak and hope that comes with a second chance at life or, better still, love.
It would be presumptuous to say this book has a happy ending; but you’ll come away from it with better knowledge of a mother’s strength, a son’s honour and a soldier’s grace.
The Independent on Sunday, August 31 2014
‘Haysom’s skilful debut … a highly readable novel with a warm heart’
A young boy living in a caravan with his mother and sister. An amnesiac hermit who appoints himself their guardian angel. The mother at her wits’ end being semi-abandoned by her husband. The husband, charming, philandering, bad-tempered, selfish. A hard-man enforcer on the streets of Brighton, with his own code of ethics. These are the dramatis personae of Haysom’s skilful debut novel, and the reader becomes caught up in the story of each one by turns. A convincing evocation of 1960s Britain, and a highly readable novel with a warm heart. It is somewhat reminiscent of Norman Collins or J.B. Priestley. Haysom has left the way open for a sequel too and anyone who has read this will want to read that.
The Sun, August 8 2014
‘Wonderful debut about love, betrayal, family and childhood’
Truman Bird disappears after moving his family to a caravan in the Ashdown Forest. Has life caught up with him or does he have a plan? Set over a few days in 1963, Christie becomes despondent as she waits for her husband to return. Wonderful debut about love, betrayal, family and childhood. 5.
Good Housekeeping, September 2014
‘Funny and heart-breaking’
As the Beatles storm the charts, single mum Christie struggles to get back on her feet. LOVE, LOVE ME DO by MARK HAYSOM manages to be both funny and heart-breaking.
We Love This Book, July 31 2014
‘In just a word or two, Mark Haysom seems able to evoke the pain of a deserted parent or the fear of a little boy’
Love, Love Me Do points to the innocent naiveté of the 1960s, to an age when the expectation for girls was marriage, family and happy ever after. But our heroine, Chrissie, struggles to understand the dreadful disillusionment of marriage to a wide boy who has no intention of ever coming good. Though sparse in description, the use of cars, pubs and their luscious landladies, a gangster-style heavy and all the main male character’s finagling and manoeuvring, creates a vivid picture of this post-war era of high expectations and low performance.
The characters in the novel are strongly drawn and engage the emotions: the trepidation and uncertainty felt by the young boy, Baxter, is painfully apparent to the reader as is the confusion of his mother. In just a word or two, Mark Haysom seems able to evoke the pain of a deserted parent or the fear of a little boy. In some respects his most powerful portrait is of Soldier, a casualty of war, still living rough in the forest, whose presence dominates much of the story. Tribute to the power of his characterisation is the disgust one feels for the main male character, Truman, who exploits and abuses everyone he meets in his efforts to live the easy life.
Full review: http://bit.ly/XAsZh6
Irish Independent, April 12 2014
‘The book is bound to succeed … this novel is both original and stylish’
This is not a slim volume, yet most of the story occurs on Friday, August 2, 1963. Between 5.24am and 8.45pm, to be precise. The plot unravels through a chain of perspectives from the principal characters, four adults and a shy, frightened boy of eight, Baxter. Baxter’s family are “on holiday” in a caravan, moored in a remote part of Ashdown Forest. Having dumped them there for the summer, Baxter’s father – a monster called Truman – takes off on a philandering spree, returning regularly but never staying. Baxter’s mother, Christie, becomes increasingly anxious about the situation, and decides that the “holiday” is over. What she doesn’t know is that Truman’s world is collapsing, minute by minute, all in one day. And that Truman’s victims – financers and mistresses – are seeking revenge. Truman decides to effectively use Baxter as a human shield when the excrement hits the expel-air, and things get very dark indeed on this hot August day. The backdrop is affectionately depicted; it is the time of the author’s childhood. In 1963, The Beatles roar up the charts with the song of the book’s title. It’s also 18 years since World War Two, and Britain’s walking wounded are suffering. One of them appears in the novel, his mind and speech gone. He is Baxter’s only friend. The poignant episodes between Baxter and the silent “Soldier” are beautifully crafted. Mark Haysom is a man familiar with popular reading trends. He worked in newspapers for 30 years, ultimately as MD of the Mirror Group. One might argue that he’s been shrewd in picking his target for this debut; the book is bound to succeed. That said, this novel is both original and stylish. Critics, though, in an effort to “liken” him to someone, will probably choose Nick Hornby. If he can grin and bear it every time this happens, I reckon he’ll be fine.
Country Style, April
‘This first novel places Haysom up there with the literary luminaries’
Deep in the Ashdown Forest, in England’s still green and pleasant land, Christie and her three children huddle in a caravan and wait for the paterfamilias to return and give his love and support. He is a man behaving badly but this is in the early 1960s , and women fall for his sleazy lines and riffle in their handbags for the tenners he’s constantly in need of – and sometimes a lot more. His terrified son, Baxter, needs a male someone to look out for him, opr just look at him, full stop. And someone does – a stranger. This first novel places Haysom up there with the literary luminaries. You saw it here first.
***** What happens next?
Maude: A really enjoyable book and a compulsive read. I was intrigued by the timeline which was unusual and took a bit of getting used to but it worked well. Very evocative of its time and place. Well constructed and I am looking forward to the second book.
***** Gripped from first to last
RF: This book is razor-sharp with flashes of style that pay homage to the best of Greene or Hemingway. I was gripped from first to last and warmed strongly to the two heroes, Baxter and Soldier, and the obvious heroine, Baxter’s mum. As intended, my dislike for Truman was deep and intense but the book is all the more engaging for that. For a first-time novel Love, Love Me Do is a sure-fire hit and I think the author’s new career may prove to be his best yet.
***** Don’t miss this …
ST: This is an excellent book that I could not put down. It’s well written and keeps you guessing until the end. Can’t wait for the next one to arrive.
***** Great characters. Beautifully written
Burmilla: An excellent book, particularly if you lived through the 60’s and 70’s. You get really involved with the characters, and the story is indicative of the period. Can’t wait for the sequel.
***** I thought it was a real delight. Thoughtful and thought provoking
HC: Just finished reading this book. I thought it was a real delight. Thoughtful and thought provoking; commendable, even elegant, lightness of touch and turn of phrase in the prose; clever evocation of an era and a place; the characters felt alive and real – not developed (just) for the sake of the story. I am no expert on author debuts but this seems to be a very good one.
***** Brilliant and unusual
JO: Loved this book – it captured the people and times of the late 50s perfectly. Such a clever idea to set the action across one day. You do want to shake the heroine for believing her feckless, delusional husband – but this is a really clever book. Looking forward to more from the author.
***** Read read read – could not out it down!
MPJM: This book will capture you and take you on a journey in the intertwined lives of 5 people – you will identify with one or more of the characters whilst not the others yet the next person may feel differently. – leading to an interesting mix of potential interpretations. But read it for sure – one of the best books I’ve read this year – I read it in three sittings, such is the need to find out the denouement!
***** A great book
SS: I finished this book in two sittings, and am already anticipating the sequel. Beautifully paced and with the characters well drawn, it is engaging from the start. Highly recommended (a great holiday read).
***** My best book so far this year
CL: A fabulous story by a great storyteller! The first time this year I have wanted to share a book with friends… Have pre-ordered and know they will be enjoyed as much as I did.
***** A great read and beautifully written
JL: This was a great read and beautifully written. It made me sad but left me hopeful. One of those books that I just didn’t want to put down. I would really recommend it as a holiday read.
*****A wonderful wonderful book, 5 July 2014
LD: This is a wonderful wonderful book, one that I read from cover to cover in one sitting, keen to find out what happened next to the characters that felt like friends I had known forever as they came alive in my mind through Mark Haysom’s beautiful writing. I can only hope that there is a follow up novel so that I can meet my new friends again!
*****Craftsmanship, Imagination and Empathy
ME: If this were just an exercise in technique – the crafting of characters through individual voices, the layering of plot through differing perspectives on the same events – it would be an impressive debut in itself. But to that add the capacity to create a lived experience of a day in the 60s that resounds in the imagination of the reader. And then suffuse it with a capacity genuinely to feel what it is like to be variously a child, a feckless young man, a disappointed woman at a time when it might just be possible to have a different life….and many more. This is an accomplished and deeply human work which is also a cracking read. The hint that there is more to come is more than welcome!
MJ: From page one you are drawn to the characters one by one and as the story unfolds and their involvement in it is revealed this book is impossible to put down. Truman, living on his wits on the edge of disaster and you know always will be. Christie, Doll and Sal, gullible women looking for and failing to find happiness and security in the fast changing society of the sixties. Soldier, Damaged by the country he served that let him slip through the net but with strong principles of guardianship for the young and the vulnerable. And my favourite character, Strachan with echoes of Graham Greene’s character Pinkie Brown, a fading hard man from Brighton, Britain’s one time capital of crime who knows his time is running out. Evocative references to contemporary music of the time enhance the atmosphere of nearly fifty years ago. A remarkable first novel with a tantalising snippet of what’s to follow in the next one. Can’t wait!
***** A remarkable pleasure
IG: Sometimes you come across a book that you say you cannot put down – but when you pick it up again it takes time to rekindle the images. Not so with Love, Love Me Do. The characters stay living with you when you put the book down and immediately speak to you when you go back to it. They are warmly and expertly drawn, they exist both separately and together which makes the whole experience of reading it a remarkable pleasure.
*****A fantastic read
JW: I read this whilst on holiday & I could not put it down. It is beautifully written. I loved the way each chapter concentrated on just 1 of the main characters so you really got to know them. Each character evoked a different emotion – sympathy, admiration, anger, frustration, love & I did not want the book to end. Very happy to see that there will be a sequel.
***** Devoured it!
KB: From the first chapter I was hooked. The characters are compelling. You want to hug them, shake them, scream at them, rescue them, cry for them and punish them. I’ve stopped reading about them but they are still with me. It’s cruel to keep us waiting to find out more about their lives. Hurry up and let me read more!
***** Brilliant book
CM: Absolutely loved this book. I would disappear to somewhere quiet and loose myself for an hour. Very difficult to put down. Each character draws you in, wanting to know more about them. You go through every kind of emotion reading this and I was saddened when I had finished it! Really looking forward to the next one. Very special indeed.
SM: I was immediately hooked by this book. All the characters are authentically drawn and very different from each other. The story was gripping and particularly so as it evolved from the perspective of each character. The ending was unexpected and intriguing – I can’t wait for the sequel,
AN: Can easily see why this author is attracting a lot of positive attention. This is an unputdownable and sensitively written atmospheric page turner, featuring a delicious range of characters you come to care for, and one that leaves you speechless, caught up in an absorbing struggle to survive. Cleverly written, full of tantalising detail and interesting twists to the end, it’s one of those captivating books you are sorry to finish. This guy is a really exciting and fresh, five star ‘storyteller’. Really looking forward to his next.
***** Compelling, Compulsive
SF: One page in and I was hooked! The character building was seamless and authentic. This book will connect with anyone with memories of the 1960s, when things were just a little different, when the things we take for granted today were aspired to! The interwoven story lines created and maintained tension, sufficient to keep the reader absorbed but never pushing boundaries for the sake of it! Memorable!
***** Amazing first novel
GB: Finished reading this wonderful first novel – couldn’t put it down!! An unpredictable story line kept me up late. Can’t wait to pick up the next book how early can a book be pre-ordered?
*****Didn’t expect a novel to stop me painting!
JW: From the word go I felt part of the plot, an onlooker wanting to know more. Set in my formative years and in an area I know well; the musical references added credibility and promoted fond memories. Not known for my total involvement in many novels this made me consider the social history of the 60’s, empathising with the individual characters. I have already suggested it as the next book club read.
***** Truly unique
MWR: I don’t think I’ve come across a book quite like this before – the Amazon blurb says it’s unique and it really is. It was recommended by a friend and I got it on Kindle this morning and was hooked from the very first page. I have been reading it now almost non-stop. It carries you back to the 1960s and it is a book that makes you laugh and then cry – sometimes within just a few lines. It is a story about so many things – lies, hopes, dreams, love, music, violence, barmaids (!), and the life of a young family abandoned in a forest. There are five main characters and they all get inside your head. Once you have read it, you are bound to have a favourite. Mine is Baxter – simply heart-breaking. But I also can’t wait to get to the next chapter about Truman!