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Contacts

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,820 ratings  ·  356 reviews
James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He's said goodbye. To him, it's the end of his story – and time to crac ...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published October 29th 2020 by HarperCollins Publishers UK
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  2,820 ratings  ·  356 reviews


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Nat K
Imagine what your first thought would be when your phone lights up with a new message, and you read the words that someone is saying goodbye to you. Permanently. As in, leaving this mortal coil behind.

"I know what I'm doing, and I'm fine. I just wanted the chance to say goodbye and to thank you for the things we have shared.
James x"


What emotions do you think you would feel? Fear? Disbelief? Anger? Incredulity? Horror? You may even wonder if it's a drunken joke. A messy text sent by someone who's
...more
Mandy White (mandylovestoread)
Contacts by Mark Watson has such a unique premise and I was intrigued on how it was going to play out. It was an emotional, at times funny and clever story tackling a tough subject. It was one that I took my time with and really appreciated.

James Chiltern has had enough and given upon himself and life. He books himself a sleeper cabin on the London to Edinburgh train and boards with one intention. He sends a message to his 158 contacts in his phone to say goodbye, and then switches it to flight
...more
Andrea
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diving-in
TW: suicide

2.5★, a little disappointing.

James is a top bloke. Never the life of the party, but a solid, dependable, affable, loyal person. However, lately a few things have gone badly wrong in James' life and he's decided to end it. He boards the overnight train to Edinburgh, a place that has significance to him, sends a goodbye text to his 158 phone contacts, switches his phone to flight mode, then settles in to endure his last night on earth in his little sleeper compartment.

Meanwhile, all ove
...more
Grumpy Old Books
I would like to thank Harper Collins and Netgalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.
A lonely man named James decides to take his own life. In the modern day equivelant of an old fashioned suicide note, he writes a short text on his phone and sends to all his contacts (like a "black mirror" version of Michael MacIntyre's schtik) hence the title. The book then reveals with how his contacts deal with the news and, in flashback, how he came to be in such a sorry
...more
Charlotte
Audio eARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

content warnings (view spoiler)

Contacts follows the story of James Chiltern, a middle-aged man who has decided that he will commit suicide in Edingborough, as he sits on the sleeper train to the city he sends out a message to his contacts, telling them what he is about to do but with no indication of where he is, and then puts his phone on aeroplane mode. As friends an
...more
Áine
Nov 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry Mark Watson, I loved you on Taskmaster. I liked the sound of this book. Took a shot and I really disliked it.
I found it to be poorly written, you think the paragraph is going one way then it meanders off somewhere else. Concepts are not well conveyed, e.g. who is talking, past or present, the layout of the geography etc. Little things, thoughts, are started but never returned to. If it was important enough to tell the reader about something, like the location of an object at a given m
...more
Hanlie
Oct 24, 2020 rated it liked it
⭐⭐⭐💫
I enjoyed  90% of this book but I found the ending disappointing. It felt a bit rushed in the end. Everything built up nicely to a great climax but then it fizzled out for me. We got to know all the different people in James's life and how his message affected them but I wanted a bit more. I wanted to know how they dealt with the conclusion. With a tweak here and there it can be a great read. I also wanted to know a bit more about Gina and about why she made the choices she did. It was inter
...more
Chrissy
3.5 stars

From the premise - a man who sends a suicide text to all the contacts in his phone and then puts his phone into flight mode so nobody can reach him to talk him out of it - I expected to spend the entire time being furiously angry at the main character for pulling a stunt like that. For that reason alone, I probably wouldn't have read this book if it hadn't been our latest book club pick. Still, I ended up liking it, despite having to put it down frequently to take a breather from the bl
...more
Willo Johnston
Aug 12, 2021 rated it did not like it
I really like Mark Watson and I really wish I liked this book more. My precis: someone threatens to do something, then nothing happens for a good 90% of the book before a different thing happens that feels inappropriate and unsatisfactory.
Melanie Lewis
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible-books
I absolutely loved the premise of this book, unique and clever. I love Mark Watson's writing and comedy. So I should have loved this book, and, in fairness, I did enjoy it. The story was so unusual and such a deep and insightful look at the way technology has changed the way we humans interact with each other. There was lots of fun but also plenty of poignancy. James was a gorgeous and relatable character and I was totally invested in the outcome. However, and this may just be my personal prefer ...more
Helen White
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. This is the book I'd hoped The Midnight Library would be. James is an overweight middle aged man, no girlfriend or close friends, stuck in a job he doesn't enjoy believing that his life has nowhere to go, so he boards the sleeper train to Edinburgh intending to kill himself there. As the train sets off he sends a goodbye text to all of his contacts then switches off the phone. During that journey we see everyone's responses to that text - the friends who feel guilty, the sib ...more
Paige Belfield
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the things I love most about Mark Watson's work is how clearly it shows the ways in which humans connect, and how everyone has their own pain and problems. He makes every character so broken and wonderful and captivating, and this was the perfect book to showcase that talent with. There is so much I want to say, but honestly I can't find the words. This book has so much heart. ...more
Girish
Jun 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: early-reviews
Interesting premise, poignant observations and a story that has it's moments. Mobile phones are a critical part of most of the storylines. Wish it had been a bit more to the point to make it a quick read.

James is a good boring overweightman who has been abandoned/forgotten by most people in his life. He decides to end his life. From a moving train he sends his suicide note as an SMS to all his contacts just before midnight before switching on the flight mode and ponder his life till he reaches h
...more
Vicki Antipodean Bookclub
“You filled every second with some sort of meaning. You used every minute, every hour well. Because that felt like winning…..So for almost all of every day - all those hoarded minutes, all that time you managed - everything seemed fine. Life seemed like the truth; what came next, you could forget”
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.
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TW: Depression and suicide


James Chiltern gets on the sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with the sole intention of ending his life in the city where he scattered his father’s ashes four years bef
...more
Gemma
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Renita D'Silva
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and poignant
Caroline Kerdouci
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Contacts is a brave, original, storyline with a quirky cast of characters and one that will surprise you with its humour. James Chiltern is embarking on his final journey, uncomfortably holed up in a cell like cabin on the London to Edinburgh sleeper train. All that remains to be done is to send a last message to all his 158 contacts in his phone informing them of his intentions to take his own life. With the deed done, his message flying off into the ether, James switches his phone to flight mo ...more
Ben Hewitt
This was really nice and really sweet, it leant a bit heavy on the technology talk at times but in the end I think it was worth it. All of the characters were likeable and there wasn’t a chapter in it that I felt was a waste of time
Angelique Simonsen
Dec 02, 2021 rated it liked it
This was a good concept. It fell a little flat about 3/4s of the way through for me but I'm glad I persevered because the ending wasn't what I expected ...more
Lucy
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Watson is, in my opinion, one of the sharpest, funniest and most articulate artists out there. As a kid my family spent summers at the Edinburgh Fringe and I remember discovering Watson for the first time sometime in my teens. He was hilarious then and he’s only got better since. His 24 hour comedy events are the stuff of legend and I’ve got a deluge of memories of sitting at the Pleasance Dome or in strange Edinburgh lecture halls, drunk with excitement and fatigue, as an ever perky Mark W ...more
Annalise Masad
May 10, 2022 rated it really liked it
I never imagined loving this book as much as I did and although it did take me a while to get through (purely because I need to be in the right state of mind to read something so heavy), it was amazing and truly heartbreaking. It reminded me of the responsibilities each of have and how there’s not much of an excuse to not care for anyone no matter who they are
Vera
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: england
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jo
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found that the story just wasn't strong enough to support the theme it was trying to address, which in itself was interesting. It began with promise, but ultimately didn't really go anywhere with most of the characters and the ending was very unsatisfying. The jumping about with chapters of POV also annoyed me at times, when you were in one person's head and then it would switch to another. Overall it just didn't deliver sufficiently for me. ...more
Char Furniss
Aug 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
It was just… OK. Had the potential to be an interesting story and concept but it was quite poorly written in places. Over explaining things that didn’t need to be explained, little remarks that weren’t clever or funny but were clearly intended to be. Also felt it somewhat trivialised the main topic of suicide in places.
Katy Kelly
Jan 09, 2021 rated it liked it
Mental health, connections, decisions.

3.5 stars.

I'll state now that I have a slightly skewed view of the subject matter at the moment. A beloved family member committed suicide a few months ago. It's still upsetting me regularly, it hasn't left me, but it's a subject I was also wanting to read about: for insight, for general interest as a reader/reviewer into how others see the decision-making process. But please bear that in mind with some of my comments.

James sends a text message to everyone i
...more
Anna
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC of this book.

I have an enormous amount of good will towards Mark Watson. He is one of my favourite comedians and he has a nervous, vulnerable energy which makes him difficult to criticise. His books always have intelligent concepts and he writes in an understated, observational, wry manner. He brings clear elements of his own personality into his books. For example, this book is about a man who is planning to commit suicide, was written following
...more
Linda
Mar 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cara
Aug 30, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, library-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book so much, but it raised some mental health red flags for me. Although Mark Watson says in his acknowledgments he wanted to show how technology had the power to bring us together, so many incidents leading up to the premise showed how it had created more loneliness and disconnection that for me did not outweigh its upside.
I was also surprised to see (in my Kindle version) the publisher had not included links to suicide support lines. While this book is touted as 'heart-
...more
Anna W
Jul 24, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting premise for a book and a reasonably enjoyable read. However, I found myself skim reading quite a lot as the story just didn't draw me in. I usually like books that switch between characters but I felt I didn't really get to know any of the characters here. The main character despite being a nice guy was not particularly likable or relatable and for me, that made the story feel a little flat. ...more
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Mark Andrew Watson (born 13 February 1980) is an English stand-up comedian and novelist.

Watson was born in Bristol to Welsh parents. He has younger twin sisters called Emma and Lucy and brother Paul. He attended Henleaze Junior school and then Bristol Grammar School, where he won the prize of 'Gabbler of the year', before going to Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied English, graduating wi
...more

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“We often hear that technology is fragmenting the world, reducing our relationships to screen exchanges rather than the real stuff, and so on, as if machines - rather than humans - were responsible for maintaining our mental health. I wanted to write something which explored the opposite possibility: that phones give us a power to affect and improve each other's lives that we have never had in history before. Contacts was of course written before the bewildering events of 2020, but the lockdown has reminded a lot of us how dependent we all are upon the core relationships in life, on our networks, and perhaps how much we've taken some of those relationships for granted. Contacts is about the fact that, for all its dangers, the age of instant communication gives us what is basically a superpower... If we only choose to use it.” 1 likes
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