editor's choice



Every year I get myself a present from my late mama. Something that’s meaningful, occasionally life changing, like the flat I bought and moved into on my birthday four years ago. Mostly though it’s a set of charcoals or a plant. This year it’s Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse, the most beautiful, uplifting book I’ve read in a long, long time – on par, for me, with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. And that’s pretty much perfect.

Mackesy’s book arrived on a day when I was feeling very blue and a little lost. Not because of an isolation birthday, as many people are having those, but because I was feeling a lack of kindness around me in that moment. Mostly though, it’s because I was missing touch, the simplest of things which, in the world before The Virus, we took for granted. Certainly, I’ll hold up my hands and say, I did. And touch is so important. There’s a reason it appears so much in our language: ‘It touched me’, ‘It touched my heart,’ ‘touch base’, ‘keep in touch’, ‘out of touch’. It means something. It means we’re connected, or not. So now I wonder what will happen in our new normality? Will generations of family and friends grow up not knowing what a casual hug feels like, an arm unthinkingly thrown about their shoulders, the feel of a loved one’s palm cradling one’s jaw. What will fill that gap, that void? Words? Can they?

For me, and people like me, who love words, in any shape or form, perhaps they will. Perhaps they can. Perhaps they always have, in those moments of anxiety, of stress, when we’re not quite connected with the world. Perhaps that’s why Mackesy’s beautiful, beautiful book, with its gorgeous illustrations, resonates. Its simplicity. Its purity. Its basic humanity. A feeling that everything can or will be alright if we just get back in touch with what matters. His words touched me. Touched my heart. Touched my soul. Touched something that needed definitely needing touching when I read it…

It’s a book about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse, how they meet, how they deal with each other, what they give each other, what they bring out in each other. But more than that it’s about kindness, love, friendship, humanity, the beauty around us. It’s about seeing what’s about us, and within us, appreciating it and celebrating it. About taking a moment to realise just what we have, what we are. All things that really matter. Especially at this moment. So, if you’re feeling a little bit challenged, a little bit out of touch, out of kilter, and need something, something to fill that void, please read Charlie Mackesy’s book. But then again, read it even if you’re not.


Charlie Mackesy | The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse | Ebury | hardback | 2019 | £16.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is for my late my mama, who buys me lovely presents each year on my birthday, always with the impeccable taste for which she was known. And also it’s for anyone who has had, is having or will have a birthday in isolation. Buy yourself a present. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

See also:  ‘Damian Barr’s slice of South Africa’;Prospect beautiful, Derek Jarman’s cottage‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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