Darkness falling. A forty-year old diabetic man lies in a hospice bed, slowly dying as his kidneys pack up their vital work. The A-Z Of You And Me is not, on the face of it, a cheery prospect. But Ivo is not just thinking about the present, which is undeniably grim although does have its moments of humour, he is also considering his past. Saintly nurse Sheila has persuaded him to pass the time by compiling a mental A-Z list of body parts and thinking of stories about each. The alphabet is long and Ivo doesn’t have much time, but there is enough to give us the tale of the love of his life, Mia, who is no longer with him. There is also a lot about his father (dead when Ivo was six) and his mother (buried seven years ago) as well as his own fate. It’s fair to wonder whether this isn’t just a bit too much tragedy for one family. Some of Ivo’s choices have been undeniably poor: when you have a compromised immune system, continuing to take Class A drugs and pursuing big nights out are not activities to make your doctor purr. More importantly, sticking by school friend Mal will have terrible consequences. But we are all caught in patterns, good and bad, learned very early on. Mia does not become some kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, although her introduction (coolly playing an electric guitar in a pub) hints at something wonderfully unattainable to come. But she is in fact a quiet trainee nurse who doesn’t fit in with Ivo’s friends (for good reason: they are arses, she is not) and knows that he is quietly killing himself. Events recalled in morphine-induced tranquillity have the quality of a dream at times, and James Hannah catches the drifting mind very well. There’s also a lot of uninterrupted direct speech, giving realistic conversations an immediacy. In the last couple of chapters, the sentences shrink to a few words each as life drains. Hannah is good on death (there’s quite a lot of it: this is a hospice after all), and on bereavement, not least the relief involved. The flutter of wings.