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Phil Whitaker




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Big Issue in the North Summer Reading Recommendation

A man boards a train, hoping to see the daughter he has heard nothing from for seven years. As he travels towards his destination, he restlessly revisits the events that blew apart their seemingly perfect world.

With acute insight, sparkling imagination, and vividly arresting prose, Phil Whitaker explores the very best and worst that families can do, and asks: what are the forces that shape us; and, against powerful traumas reverberating down the generations, can true love prevail?

Praise for this Book

‘A propulsive, cathartic tour-de-force – Whitaker's finest work to date.’ —Xan Brooks

Reviews of this Book

‘Brilliant, innovative, gripping, hellish, unbelievable truth. You is driven by honesty, humanity, compassion and love. A guaranteed page-turner. A story of supernatural hope over terrible experience, of understanding and even forgiveness. I won’t say any more. To unpack the magic of this art would spoil You for you.’ —Nick Child, The Alienation Experience

You, by Phil Whitaker, tells the story of a father whose teenage daughter cut him out of her life after he left her mother. Told in flashbacks as he makes his way across the country to meet her for the first time in seven years, unsure if she will turn up at the rendezvous, it is a tale of inherited hurts and modern manipulation. The premise may sound familiar but its execution soars above similar tales, offering the reader an incisive portrayal of family breakdown and the damage caused by a vindictive parent from a father’s point of view.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate

‘The “you” of Whitaker’s emotionally charged novel is the narrator’s daughter. Stevie Buchanan, fiftysomething art therapist, is a victim of “parental alienation”, a severing of relations between parents and children as a result of marriage or relationship breakdown. In urgently, insistently addressing his daughter, a 21-year-old student, Stevie does the very thing he is prevented from doing in person, as he has been estranged from her for seven years. His desperation fuels flights of imagination in which, together, the pair revisit scenes of family history going back generations to examine the domino effect of traumas that repeat themselves with devastating effect.’ —Jane Housham, The Guardian

You can be appreciated on a number of levels. Firstly the language and the writing which is of the highest quality. Whitaker seems to put his prose together effortlessly creating word pictures and word thoughts that stay with you for several pages. Secondly his ability to characterise again seems to be effortless. I’m sure it isn’t! But for the reader it’s the end result that resonates and the characters here, especially Stevie, are real and substantially drawn. Thirdly, and arguably most importantly the theme of this book, parental alienation. If it’s not a term you’re familiar with, take heart. Neither was I. But I am now and how!’ —Gill Chedgey, Nudge Book Magazine

Praise for Previous Work

‘Whitaker is so genuinely inventive.’ —The Spectator

‘Whitaker is clearly a writer to watch’ —Daily Telegraph

‘Whitaker is an intelligent, sympathetic and eloquent writer.’ —Sunday Telegraph

‘Phil Whitaker has gone where no novelist has dared to go before.’ —Marcus Chown

‘Funny, engaging, insightful, and even moving. Masterful.’ —Phil Hammond

‘A wonderful story. if literary thriller means anything it means The Face. Buy at once.’ —Time Out

‘Heart-stopping. The Face is a thriller unlike any I've ever read.’ —Literary Review

‘A clever, beautifully judged piece of writing.’ —Financial Times

‘This novel about two sisters addresses the permanent themes of relationships, loyalty and trust. As one sister, Bridie, leaves her secular Catholic life to become a nun in Africa, and her sister Elodie sets out to look for her when she goes missing, the reader learns of Elodie’s own journey of self-discovery. As she concludes on her return flight: ‘Down there, somewhere, were human beings doing things out of hatred; many others down things out of love. And most, like Bridie and her, contending with the mess and muddle that lies between.’’ —Catholic Herald

‘While maintaining the fast-paced missing-person investigation, Whitaker also manages to weave in a separate timeline of Elodie’s memories of her sister. There are snapshots of their parents’ abusive marriage, an awkward 18th-birthday disco and euphoric experiences watching the electronic dance act Faithless. In these scenes from past lives, the complexities of sisterly strife are presented on a vividly human scale.’ —New Statesman

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