4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was initially a difficult book to read. Not because it’s badly written in any way – I requested it as I really enjoyed Matthew Quick’s previous novel, The Silver Linings Playbook. It’s just so full of raw emotion, with a protagonist that you simultaneously feel sorry for and dislike – at least for half of the book.
From the very beginning it is a tragic and detailed story. We’re introduced to Leonard (or rather, he introduces himself) on the morning of his eighteenth birthday. This is when he reveals his plan: to kill a fellow classmate, and then himself, using a World War II handgun. It is unusual in that it has footnotes, and lots of them, in which Leonard explains background information and rambles on about previous events and his innermost thoughts. I really liked the footnotes, as they were a very intimate look into Leonard’s life and mind. Another incredibly clever and particularly sad part of the book are Leonard’s letters from his future self. His favourite teacher, Herr Silverman, encourages Leonard to write them – and he does, even though he has no intention of reaching this future. It’s just so sad, how he has created this perfect life for himself in the future with a beautiful wife and loving daughter, in a post-apocalyptic yet peaceful world, but he’s just so sure he will never even reach that age, let alone have anything like that in his life.
Leonard decides that before he kills himself, he will leave gifts for important people in his life. Four different people, and how very different they are. His elderly neighbour, with whom Leonard shares a love for Humphrey Bogart movies, helps the reader to see a softer, more caring side. A fellow student and violin virtuoso, who really demonstrates that Leonard (ironically) appreciates the little things in life. A pastor’s daughter, who reduces Leonard to just a regular teenage boy. And finally Herr Silverman, his favourite teacher, for whom Leonard shows great respect.
I mentioned that it was difficult reading for the first half. Before you find out exactly just why Leonard is on this path, he seems incredibly judgemental and condescending, constantly looking down on his peers, and just not a likeable character in the slightest. Then the pieces come together and you find out why he is struggling so much – abandoned by his drunkard of a father and unsure if he’s even still alive, neglected by his fashion designer mother who spends most of her time in another state, and one massive reason that suddenly hits you like a ton of bricks when you read it, leaves you reeling and completely changes your perception of Leonard.
The irony is that, for someone who is so intent on killing themselves, Leonard sure thinks about life a lot. He has quite a philosophical view, more so than his classmates, and he is incredibly intelligent. His narrative voice definitely reminded me of Pat in The Silver Linings Playbook – it’s funny how these characters who are seen as ‘unstable’ often have a better grip on life than those who are ‘normal’. In conclusion, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a haunting and tragic story, that completely flips your view of the protagonist halfway through – leaving the reader feeling incredibly judgemental themselves.