I have read loads of books in my time but I can honestly say I have never read anything quite like The Octopus Man. I am so grateful to have read this important, unflinching but also really funny book.
The second novel by Jasper Gibson, The Octopus Man is a profound and poignant account of being caught up in the mental health system for years following a schizophrenia diagnosis.
It is the story of Tom, once an outstanding law student with a great future ahead of him whose whole life is now ‘controlled’ by Malmock, the Octopus God. Although no one else can hear him, Malmock talks to Tom. For the last twenty years Malmock has dictated Tom’s life, not allowing him to do numerous things such as eat meat or have sex. If Tom defies Malmock in any way, the Octopus God punishes him by electrocuting him down one side of his body.
Tom is continually supported by his long-suffering sister, Tess. The portrayal of their sibling bond is so authentic, raw and touching; it is at the heart of this story. However after a particularly upsetting episode which results in Tom being sectioned and Tess almost at breaking point, Tom finds himself under increasing pressure to take part in an experimental drug trial that everyone believes will silence Malmock for ever. But are Tom and the Octopus God ready to say bye to each other for ever?
The Octopus Man is described as ‘deeply moving and tragi-comic’, a description I completely agree with. I absolutely love Tom as a character, he is intelligent, witty and struggling in so many ways as his everyday life is thwarted by the powerful drugs he is told to take. He is also thwarted by the medical world who patronise him and refuse to listen to him. Society also thwarts Tom as former friends, neighbours, people in the street view him as ‘mad’. Tom is far from mad, whatever mad is. Tom is a true literary hero.
I am so pleased that Jasper Gibson gave Tom and every real person caught up in the mental health system a voice to be heard. Especially as Tom’s story ends in hope. The ending is so powerful and moving.
The research that Jasper Gibson must have done to write The Octopus Man is outstanding. He was inspired to write it following the unexplained death of his 40 year-old cousin after two decades of a schizophrenia diagnosis. This is a novel written with such warmth, humanity and authenticity.
Thank you Jasper for writing this important novel, it has been an absolute privilege for me as a book blogger to read and review. Thank you also to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of The Octopus Man.
To follow the blog tour please see below.
The Octopus Man was released in paperback on 5 May 2022.