I first met Joy Thomas in the lovely Suffolk Anthology Bookshop in Cheltenham, not long after it opened, when I went to see what the shop was like. In full swing in the basement was a poetry workhop, led by writing coach and author Sue Johnson with Joy, and I took to them both straight away. They have since become members of the Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance, a group I now run once a month at The Anthology, and both made a terrific contribution to the speaker line-up at the 2016 Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival.
Joy was on the panel called “Writing about Difference”, because she took up writing to help her come to terms with her son’s diagnosis with autism. That panel included authors who were either affected by mental or physical health issues, or were writing about them. Not only did this panel discussion really move the audience, but the speakers have since become firm and mutually supportive friends.
A Treat to Self
Take Five is Joy Thomas’s third book, and while it touches on autism and dementia in a few places, it has a wider canvas, dipping into all kinds of topics including love, relationships, and family life. Although it includes several poignant pieces, for the most part it is pure fun – a short, sweet collection of poems, short stories, inspirational sayings and even a few recipes, designed to provide a cheery break during the reader’s busy day.
Joy Thomas has a real flair for jaunty verse on a range of subjects, from observational poems to neat limericks – my favourite is the one about the feather duster:
There was a young lady from Worcester
Who picked up a large feather duster.
She held it up high
To the clouds in the sky
But a gust of wind blew and we lost her.
These come as comic relief in amongst the more serious pieces, including the heartwrenching “Dementia” and the defiant “The Psychologist” about the author’s five-year-old son as being diagnosed as “mentally handicapped”, in the terminology of a bygone age. (He’s now 50.)
The presentation of this book is a bit unusual – large print with a border framing each page, and lots of white space – but that actually adds to the relaxing feel about it. You can take it in even with very tired eyes! I love the cover image of lavender in bloom .
The title, reminiscent of Dave Brubeck’s sublime jazz piece, (you can listen to it here), is also suggestive of a leisure magazine (e.g. Take A Break – a long-established British paper) and that’s how this book reads – an eclectic, easy-to-read mix that takes you out of yourself for a little while. When you put the book down, you return to your busy life with positive things to think about and reflect on, ready to face the day recharged and a little enriched. The price is similar to magazine pricing too (currently £3.50/$4.50 on Amazon), and it’s just as good as a treat-to-self – in fact, better, as there are no ads, and book format is more durable.
Inspiring as Well as Amusing
This is the third book by Joy Thomas, who took up writing to help her come to terms with her son’s autism, and I’m now looking forward to reading her earlier books. I am sure she will be an inspiration to anyone else with similar issues, as well as raising awareness for those fortunate enough not to be affected by such health concerns.