Book review: Census

Novel about a dying man on a census-collating road trip with his son, who has a learning disability

Census Jesse Ball Granta £14.99 | 256pp ISBN: 9781783783779

Unusually for a novel, Jesse Ball’s new book, his eighth, has an introduction in which he explains how it is based on his deceased 24-year-old brother. ‘I feel, that people with Down’s syndrome are not really understood. What is in my heart when I consider him and his life is something so tremendous, so full of light, that I thought I must write a book that helps people to see what it is like,’ he says.

The story is somewhat strange. It is set in the future, in an unnamed country. A man who is dying is crossing this country collating a census with his son, who has a learning disability. Some people are happy to fill in the census while the majority are not keen and many are openly hostile.

These encounters give the father


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