My word, this book is grim.
How grim is it?
If Ken Loach were planning to make a movie version he’d think it should be livened up with a few musical numbers. The late Ingmar Bergman would have scribbled jokes in the margins.
It’s endless grimness with no relief at all. The worst of human behaviour rolled out seemingly endlessly in a way which is tortuously unremitting. In life I generally identify as a pessimist, but I feel that even the most sunny optimist – after flicking through these pages – will want to crawl into a dark cupboard and weep for a while.
A demanding middle class mother and her two adult daughters move into a tower block in Willesden. Around them are all walks of human life – from faded rock stars, to new immigrants, to middle class teachers. What really interests this writer though are the more unsavoury ends of society: the bullies, the arsonists, the would-be rapists, those who keep single mothers and their babies hostage to torture them. Very swiftly it becomes a catalogue of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, and boy, is it wearying.
The book it most reminded me of is Martin Amis’s LIONEL ASBO, although if memory serves he did at least manage to get jokes in there. There’s the same sense of a middle class author constructing their view of the under class from the more tawdry headlines of The Daily Mail, and never getting any closer than those tawdry headlines for fear of getting their hands dirty.
That being said, it did manage to grip me. Even though I found it unremitting, I did want to know how it ended and pushed myself to the end, I can’t say that I necessarily enjoyed the experience, but I don’t regret the hours I spent within its pages.
Fancy reading some free dark (although not grim) fiction by my hand, my short story collection, SOMETHING WENT WRONG & OTHER STRANGE TALES is free now.