Book Review – Maybe by Eugene Francis-Williams

First published, 2019

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

What an utterly atmospheric novel. 

The story follows kind-hearted and slow-witted Stan Heart, from his shellshock, sustained during the Blitz, and all the way through his years in a psychiatric institution under the dubious care of Bill Sweet, a nurse and bully who frightens the patients, and the dangerous and despicable, Dr. Richards: a powerful man with a terrible secret.

In the meantime, the jealous and conniving Georgia plans to escape from her drunken and neglectful parents by getting pregnant and married in quick succession. However, when she realises that her new husband lacks the commanding presence she requires, she reaches for the only crutch she knows and falls to rampant alcoholism; destroying her marriage and damaging her baby.

When Stan witnesses a wrongful death, he is prescribed a horrifyingly lengthy course of electro-convulsive therapy by Dr. Richards, thus ensuring that Stan will forget everything he saw, and the bully of a nurse, responsible for the death, will be forced into complicity with the doctor and keep his dreadful secrets.

I found myself fully immersed from the first page. There are some difficult themes that I imagine some readers will struggle with, including: alcohol dependency, the use of ECT, foetal alcohol syndrome, sexual abuse of children, and a pretty grizzly murder.

That said, the story is so well-written, the characters are compelling, and I couldn’t wait for Dr. Richards to get his comeuppance. I started out disliking Georgia and, without warning, found myself feeling sorry for her. The structure and the storytelling are excellent. Even with the darker themes running through the book, I kept on turning the pages because I just had to know what would happen next. I think this story is going to stay with me for a very long time.