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March 8 @ 7:00 pm
  • Festival 4
  • Fiction


Jem Lester


Brentwood Library
New Road
Brentwood, CM14 4BP
£5 (27yrs and under)

Box Office:

Mercury Theatre
01206 573948
© Catherine Ercilla

Jem Lester’s powerful, darkly-funny and heart-breaking debut novel Shtum is a poignant story of father and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships as three generations of men in one family – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son, Jonah, has never spoken. When he and his wife separate, Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. As Ben battles single fatherhood, he learns some difficult home truths. Jonah, blissful in innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

Jem Lester has been a journalist and an English and Media studies teacher. He has two children, one of whom is profoundly autistic, and lives in London with his partner and her two children.


FESTIVAL 4 TICKET OFFER: This year we are offering four events for the price of three on selected Essex Book Festival events – Just choose any four events with the ‘Festival 4’ symbol when booking in person, over the phone or online.


Angry and fiercely funny . . . The ending tears the heart out; this is an unforgettable first novel. The Times

This is the literary territory of Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby, infused with the Jewish humour of Howard Jacobson and Shalom Auslander . . . an impressive novel that gives a very accurate portrayal of the struggles some families of autistic children endure, while taking the reader on an exhilarating roller coaster ride between pathos, comedy and anger. The Guardian

Powerful, unapologetic and deeply moving, Jem Lester mines a hard-hitting story to discover dark humour and surprising warmth. It’s a book that breaks your heart but ultimately uplifts. A simply stunning novel. Miranda Dickinson


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