This book wasn’t quite what I had expected when I first started to read it. I had expected it to be about a Professor who has a break-down and feels alienated among the humans he knows. Sometimes I feel a bit like this when I have bad mental health days, and being familiar with Haig’s ‘Reasons to be Alive’, I had assumed he had drawn on that experience.
Turns out on reading the interviews at the end, this is exactly what Matt Haig did, but with the story he took it a step further, and my goodness what a brilliant step.
Because Professor Andrew Martin doesn’t just feel alienated, he is an alien. I often wonder what aliens would think of us, and this is what this book is about. From the moment he’s reading a magazine and questioning the point of consumerism, which I often question myself (except books, I never question buying books), I fell in love with the story.
The only one of the protagonist’s opinions of us that I disagree with is his confusion towards our attitude to clothes. I quite like them, but then again I live in Newcastle and we have chilly winds here. Other than that I felt I related better to this alien than I do some people I’ve known in my life.
I’ve been a fan of Haig ever since I read ‘The Radleys’ a few years ago and he did a brilliant twist on a vampire story. In ‘The Humans’ he has created a character who at first views us with contempt but slowly and surely finds enjoyment in simple pleasures, such as music, poetry, and in what it means to be in love. Despite that latter one being hard, with complicated rituals, the protagonist finds himself feeling more and more at home.
The book is a superb reminder to the reader to cherish the little things which make us feel content, because in truth that is the point of human life. Appreciation of what we have and of each other is more important than money and the selfish pursuit of individual triumph at the cost of sacrificing those closest to us.