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Not Thomas

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  191 ratings  ·  44 reviews
The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m waiting for her to go away.

Tomos lives with his mother. He longs to return to another place, the place he thinks of as home, and the people who lived there, but he’s not allowed to see t
Paperback, 366 pages
Published June 17th 2017 by Honno Press
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Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  191 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Judith Barrow
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then I read a book that sets all my senses tingling with the brilliance of it.

And this is why I wanted to write my review in a different way than normal.

I don’t just mean that the characters are so multi-layered and rounded that I can empathise with them. Or that the descriptions give a wonderful sense of place that make the settings easy to envisage. Or that the plot makes a story that is innovative and original.

I mean a book that holds all these… and more. And this novel does ju
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family-saga

When I first started to read this, I was a little put off in the way it was written, its through young Thomas eyes, using his words, his child way of looking at things which at first I personally found annoying as he would repeat himself. As the book grew on me and I stepped back from this thinking how a young boy Thomas age would talk, I got well into this.

This is a story that will 'knock your socks off' its shocking, its emotional and it darn right moving.
I grew to love Thomas and just wanted
Alli Maskell
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was gone midnight as I finished this and I sat on my sofa a blubbering wreck. From page 30 onwards I was wiping my tears as fast as I turned the pages. I raced through this book in one sitting. Completely unputdownable. I just had to know what happened. Not sentimental , Tomos' five year old voice narrating his story was utterly believable , completely compelling and enthralling. His acceptance of both the cruelty and compassion shown to him broke my heart. Would make an excellent book club r ...more
Jason Dickinson
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read Sara Gethin's 'Not Thomas' because it was our montly book club's read. And it fully justified the reason I joined the book club- to read books I wouldn't normally read.

The theme of child neglect and abuse didn't initially win me over, and the fact that it is largely told from the child's pov didn't help. Still, I ploughed on with the task at hand. And was I ever glad that I did?

I have just finished the novel this evening, wiping tears from my eyes.

Yes, the subject matter is challenging at
Ann Thomas
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book will captivate you and tear your heartstrings. Sara Gethin used to be a primary school teacher, and really understands how a five-year-old thinks. It's fascinating to discover how the world looks from a child's point of view, especially when that world is filled with neglect and violence. As I read the ending, I cried. You have got to read this book. ...more
Laura Wilkinson
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some of the world’s greatest novels are narrated by children – To Kill a Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye, I Captured the Castle (I could go on but won’t) – but I think it’s fair to say that the younger the child the greater the challenge for both author and adult reader. This is certainly true of me. Emma Donoghue’s Room is a brilliant book but I confess to relief when half way through the narration switched from five-year-old Jack to Ma. Sara Gethin’s (adult) debut Not Thomas is told entirely ...more
Andy Weston
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wales
This was an uncomfortable read and as a teacher, a book that at times I felt I was reading for work. Certainly it's a better way of being aware of the sort of child abuse that goes on in our society today than completing the multiple choice scenario worksheets at the start of each year as professional development.

Sara Gethin was a teacher herself and her story of neglect of a young boy, her first novel, is an important one for all involved in working with children to read. There is hardly any b
Jackie Law
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not Thomas, by Sara Gethin, is told from the point of view of five year old Tomos, who lives with Mammy and Brick in Wales. Mammy and Tomos used to live with Nanno and Dat, and Tomos misses them a lot. Nanno fed him good food and wrote him letters. Dat made him a train table that he still plays with even though the trains have been taken away. Nanno and Dat’s house was filled with stories and songs; now Tomos spends much of his time alone. He knows he mustn’t open the door when Mammy isn’t there ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
Every so often, a book comes along – without any great fanfare – that makes me want to shout about it from the rooftops. Not Thomas by Sara Gethin – published by the consistently excellent Honno Press on 15th June – is one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year. As I finished reading, I immediately nominated it for the Guardian Not The Booker prize – if there is any justice in this world (and I do hope there will be) this book should be on mainstream prize shortlists everywhere.

I’m not a
J.B (Debbie)
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not Thomas caused me a sleepless night last night. I finished the book at around midnight and then went straight to sleep. The book was in my dreams all night and I dreamed about Tomos. I got up in the middle of the night thinking about him too. I think this book hit quite a few emotional nerves with me during the course of reading it, mainly because I have worked with kids like Tomos and I know his situation is not unique. At times, it was similar to some aspects of my own up-bringing.

Tomos is
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, wales
This is an incredibly moving book. I didn’t know but the story begins at Christmas in the run up to Tomos’s nativity play and, as it is Christmastime at the moment I had coincidentally just read Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’. This book depicts a very, very different Wales and the accidental juxtaposition of the two books against each was heartbreaking.

It is the story of Tomos - a very bright and caring five year old living with his drug addicted teenage mother and her abusive bo
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a well-written, emotional story and I can't tell you how close to tears I was as I read this and how much I wanted to jump into the book to give Tomos a cwtch (and to give a telling off to Mrs Pugh!) The innocence and beauty of Tomos' character and his world, despite the neglect and abuse he suffers, is captured in the simple yet effective prose. A book that is compelling, heartbreaking and well worth reading! ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking read - but could not put it down.
Annabelle Franklin
Written in the voice of five-year-old Tomos, this story takes us right into the hostile and dysfunctional world of a small child in the care of a teenage mum addicted to heroin. The author portrays in searing detail Tomos's experience of being left home alone for a week or more while his mother and her boyfriend travel to Scotland to do a drug deal. This book doesn't make for easy reading, but it is skilfully executed and utterly gripping. ...more
L.M. Krier
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has the potential to be extremely irritating. Despite that, I found it a gripping read. It's written entirely in the first person singular present tense, from the point of view of a 5-year-old boy so it's necessarily somewhat simplistic and repetitive. If you can live with that, there's a good story here trying to get out.
Little Tomos (not Thomas) Morris is the illegitimate son of a teenage drug addict. Although his early life, with his mother's foster parents, was good, he's now livin
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the most emotional, realistic and raw book I’ve ever read. I do not recommend it as night time reading. More day time where you have a chance to do something else more light hearted before sleeping. I had vivid nightmares after reading this book. Never more so have I wanted to seek out literary characters and offer them a loving and safe home. I realise this is fiction, but I live in Wales where this is set and I have worked in Social Services child and family, so this story is very rea ...more
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once in a blue moon a book comes along that leaves me struggling to write a review adequate enough to do it justice. Not Thomas is THAT book. I found myself gripped from the first page and as I progressed through the book my emotions ranged from disbelief, anger, sorrow, love, laughter, rage and sheer despair at humanity.

Tomas is a five year old boy who lives with his young Mammy (she was fourteen when he was born) and her boyfriend in a house that resembles a pigsty. Mammy (Ree) and Brick spend
Bethan Hindmarch
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Warning. This book deals with very upsetting themes and contains triggers.

My husband commented, on looking at the cover, "it's one of those books. I wouldn't read it".
And it does look like one of *those* books: biographical memoirs detailing a childhood of abuse and neglect.

For several reasons, Not Thomas is not one of those books.

Tomos is five and lives with his mother and her boyfriend; she is an addict and he is a drug dealer. The story escalates and takes an extremely violent turn that I was
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tomos, not Thomas, is a five-year-old boy who's basically taking care of himself. Tomos knows the rules and he repeats these to himself all the time. He can't count on his mother who's more away than at home. Every now and then people are coming to see if he's doing alright, but Tomos will not open the door if he's home alone. He'll hide behind the big black chair and will stay there until it's safe to come back out again. Tomos writes heartbreaking letters to his Nonna and Dat asking them to pl ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unquestionably, unless you are made of stone, this book will make you cry. It will snag the edge of your heart, lodge in your throat & reduce you to tears. It’s a dark story with a paradoxically light centre which is one of its myriad graces. The story of the little boy who is ‘Not Thomas’ – if only the lady would listen – is by turn heart-rending & ultimately hopeful.

Tomos’ plight is shocking & in our so-called civilized society, no child should have to deal with the things this brave little fi
Cari Mayhew
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such a sad story I often struggled to bring myself to read it. The novel is written as if it were a true story told by the central character, 5-year-old Tomos. Tomos has just moved in with his birth mother, following a long period of foster care which came to an end when the foster parent died.

The language with which it’s written, is very much like that of its protagonist, with common wording, present tense, short sentences, and childlike enthusiasm clearly conveyed. In spite of this, yo
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don’t read this.
Unless you have the time to read it without putting it down - don’t read it.
Unless you want to have a 'lump of sad in your tummy’ - don’t read it.
You’ll travel with that little boy. Alongside him you’ll feel happy, sad, frightened, bewildered, loving people who can’t love you back, missing the people who can.
You’ll pray that he’ll survive, that he’ll come through this nightmare that he is in. You can see it’s a nightmare, but he feels its normal to have a bed with no pillow or c
Catherine McCarthy
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought Not Thomas from the author at a book fair last week, and despite having a long TBR list, I couldn’t resist starting it. I could not put it down! As a teacher myself I recognized Tomos’s ‘voice’ only too well. The author brought to life all of the character incredibly well, and considering it was told in first person, from the POV of a 5 year old, not once did the story telling waver.
I would also add that I’ve never been a fan of present tense fiction – this book converted me!
Alex Martin
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My heart was in my mouth all the way through
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 June 2020
Tomos is a fantastic narrator and he enthralled me even though he is only 5. His story is a scary one; in fact, it's downright terrifying and sadly all too believable. The only time this unputdownable book stalled for me was when the hard-pressed social workers were making misjudgements and leaving him in peril. Despite everyone's good intentions, Tomos is left alone at home to fend for himself and he witne
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda Sayer
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books-read
Tomos lives with his mammy. He used to live elsewhere in the place he thought of as home with people he loved but he’s not allowed to see those people anymore. He is five years old and loves school. Miss teaches him and she listens to him. Sometimes he is hungry and Miss gives him her extra sandwiches and a coat from lost property so he isn’t cold at playtimes. Bad people want to come into his house and Mammy has told him not to open the door but the men break in and Tomos’ world will never be t ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Told from the perspective of five-year old Tomas, this story of neglect, abuse and the effects of poverty, addiction, and mental illness is disturbing and not easy to read. The care and concern of others around Tomas overshadows the darkness here. It is uneven, a first novel and although Tomas’s inner voice wanders from child to adult to convey the story, the author manages to pull it off overall. I do question the picture of social services is authentically painted, it’s a bit t
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not Thomas is utterly heart-wrenching. It is told from the viewpoint of Tomos, a five year old boy, and while his language may be simple and easy to read, the content is anything but. Tomos is a bright, cheerful and resourceful little boy but he is thoroughly neglected. Unable to see the foster family he loves, ignored by his addict mother and her dangerous boyfriend and failed by overstretched social workers he is helped by a kind if somewhat misguided teacher.
Highly recommended if you like an
Iain MacDonald
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
“Imagine you’re five, alone in the house, and someone gets in.”

Want to find out? Well that teaser of a moment happens 3/4 of the way through and lasts about 5 pages.

Overall, the book is too ‘on the nose’ and lacks subtlety. The shocking moments or so heavily saturated throughout the book that you can see them coming a mile off and they lack any real impact beyond the surface. The only positive is that it’s a quick read but I found myself less interested and invested as the book went on.

Don’t r
Thomas is five years old and lives with his teenage mother and her various male friends. His life is so precarious I could only hold my breath in wonder at the emotional abuse and physical danger he lives with. It is written from in Thomas' voice and the writer has caught the voice of a very vulnerable little boy who wants to see the good side of everyone and to protect and care for them.

I didn't enjoy sharing his world.
I'm sorry this is not for me.
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Sara Gethin grew up in west Wales and worked as a primary school teacher. Her debut novel 'Not Thomas' was shortlisted for The Guardian's Not the Booker prize in 2017 and the Waverton Good Read Award in 2018. She is a member of the Hay Festival Writers at Work.
Sara writes for children as Wendy White, and her first children's book won the Tir na-nOg Award in 2014.
Home is still west Wales, but she

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