Book Review: The Lightman System

I think there are things going on in your sister that nobody knew anything about.” “There are in everyone.”

Roger Hyams ~ The Lightman System


1974. Teenage siblings Ellie and Colin are on holiday when they fall for the same girl. From this strange meeting onward, Ellie’s musical talent takes her to new heights, Colin finds his own fascination in photography, and both seem set for fulfilment – until catastrophe overtakes Ellie and changes the shape of the whole family.

Years later, brother and sister must battle to understand what has befallen them.

The Lightman System will speak directly to those who have had similar experiences to Ellie and Colin, either as the sufferer of mental storms or those close to them.


What a heart-breaking book.

The Lightman System starts off like a modern Noel Streatfeild story, with a musical child learning to navigate adolescence, crushes and relationships. It’s beautifully written and relatable, as we’ve all struggled with knowing who we are at such a young age.

Ellie, Anna and Colin are all coming to terms with what they want to do and who they want to be, but at the same time, they want to please their parents and make them proud. I really enjoyed the first half of the book and the emotions felt by all characters when Ellie starts to lose control.

The second part of the book lost me a little. It skipped forward so many years that I couldn’t relate to the characters as much and sadly it dragged. There were gaps in the reader’s knowledge and it just seemed a little too sad to deal with. Not only was there sudden death, but we had to face up to the fact that this bright girl had never managed to overcome her mental health issues and follow her true path.

It’s a good book, but slightly too long and left me feeling sad and unsatisfied. I also didn’t really get the sense that Ellie and Colin were in love with Anna, so felt the synopsis was misleading, as their childhood letter writing was a fraction of the book. It would also have been good to understand the children’s relationship with their parents a bit better. That said, the dynamic between the siblings was surprisingly lovely and for me that was the most interesting part of the story.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Lightman System is published by Wrecking Ball press. I received a copy as part of Insta Book Tours. Opinions my own.

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