This is an important book.
Every book, it goes without saying, is important to its author. I suspect for John Larkin this is the most important book he’s written – perhaps the most important he’ll ever write. We get a hint why with the knowledge that it took him three years to get the manuscript to a stage he was happy to submit for publication. We receive another indication when we read its dedication – firstly to his children ‘.., the brightest stars in the darkest night.’ and then to his wife ‘.., for helping me to find my way back into the light.’
In January 2012 Larkin had a complete breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He describes it as ‘…an awful time in my life.’ He left with an ambitious goal for what was to become this novel. He wanted his words to give hope. He wanted it to save lives. This scribe has no doubt that, in the hands of those who need it most, ‘The Pause’ will indeed save lives. For some those words will be the most important they read in their short, to date, existence.
The book deserves a wider audience, as well, for it shows that even when the darkest thoughts envelope one – so dark that the ultimate price is contemplated, a pause to think, if only for an instant, can drive that destructive urge away. It demonstrates that always, always there are silver linings up ahead.
Coming at it with adult eyes this is far from the perfect product. Clichés abound as do annoying repetitions (every laugh to be had was snorted). The structuring may not work comfortably for some – particularly those who have managed to keep the black dog at bay. I doubt Larkin’s effort will make a gong’s short-list on literary merit alone. But it is not written for those who are able to look back, but for those unable to see a way forward. This book contains something far more important than literary perfection. It speaks to vulnerable young people, many of whom may be despairing, in a way that connects. Despite its dark themes, it engages in a manner that is downy light, infused with a humour that makes it immensely readable. It is a page turner. ‘The Pause’ does not shy away from the barriers to happiness that life puts up, but demonstrates that most people have their hearts filled with goodness and they are here to help. In a country, such as Australia, there are plenty of safety nets when the path ahead seems only to be filled with potholes leading to an abyss. ‘The Pause’ asks that these good souls are looked to for support, for this is a novel full of the possibilities of life.
Its two central characters have a deep and abiding love for each other, despite their terrible situations, past and present. Its no spoiler to say that, against incredible odds, love wins out. It’s beside the point whether Declan paused or not before he took that plunge. What is important is the journey he went on after the event.
From my own experience, after forty years in the public education system, I know how important library workers are in schools. Libraries are the refuge of the vulnerable. Therefore those adults in there are the front line in many cases, often taking on the role as counsellor as well as providers and organisers of resources. As I’ve noted before, these are the people who will know which of their flock would benefit from having this important, uplifting YA book directed their way. Through them John Larkin will succeed.
YouTube trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkDGRqbOXBI