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With special guest:

  • Jem Lester

In this program we cross to London to discuss with author Jem Lester his new novel SHTUM. For anyone who has missed the British television shows and is not sure what “shtum” means Jem tells us that it means “silent or uncommunicative”. That is what a loving father may face when he has a child with profound autism.

The book SHTUM won the 2013 PFD/City University Prize for Fiction but in writing the book Jem tells us he draws on his own experiences having raised a boy now nearly 16 who is profoundly autistic.

This is one of those books you do not want to put down. One of the characters refers to the power of words and yet the most eloquent communication between a father and a son is a non-verbal moment where the connection is “hilarious, fleeting and precious.”

The story is told in the book by Ben who is clearly flawed and he makes those around him suffer because he is never able to finish what he started. This is something his own father in the book reminds him of constantly.

But when it matters and Ben’s son Jonah needs someone to champion his interests Ben finds something within himself. The book looks at father/son relationships over two generations. They are very different on the surface but similar in some ways when we dig a bit deeper. We also explore a failing marriage and the true meaning of friendship as we learn about the characters. There are some gems to be discovered in this world that many of us are not familiar with in our everyday lives.

It is not surprising that this book has created excitement overseas and it will surely be a similar reaction locally when it is released soon. Listen to Jem for an entertaining and informative first glimpse at the reasons why.

Jem Lester

Jem Lester was a journalist for nine years and saw the Berlin Wall fall in 1989 - and though there, he denies personal responsibility. He was also the last journalist to interview the legendary Fred Zinnemann before the director died. He denies responsibility for that too. He taught English and Media studies at secondary schools for nine years. Jem has two children, one of whom is profoundly autistic, and for them he accepts total responsibility. He lives in London with his partner and her two children. Shtum won the 2013 PFD/City University Prize for Fiction.

Song selection by our guest: The Boys of Summer by Don Henley

Listen Now (MP3)

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