Friday, 14 October 2016

"The Bricks That Built the Houses" by Kate Tempest

Year of Publication:  2016
Length:  399 pages
Genre:  slice-of-life

The novel follows the lives of a group of 20-somethings in London:  Becky is an aspiring dancer, working as a waitress and part-time masseuse. Harry sells drugs to rich people in clubs and at parties, while dreaming of setting up a bar/restaurant/performing arts venue/community center.  Harry is in love with Becky, but Becky is dating Pete, Harry's jealous, bitter, unemployed younger brother. They struggle with dead-end jobs, complex friendships and relationships, violent maniacs, politics and angry drug-dealers, all the time trying to pursue their dreams and escape the emptiness of their lives in south-east London.

Kate Tempest is an acclaimed poet, rapper and playwright, this is her first novel.  The prose is deft with some beautiful passages, and a strong ear for dialogue.  The novel moves between past and present, detailing the early lives and backgrounds of the characters.  The book treats it's characters  with real compassion, even when they make bad choices.  It also portrays a powerful portrait of inner-city British life.  This is a passionate, engaged, relevant novel, written with real heart.  Some of the storylines conclude a little too neatly at the end, but this is a minor criticism.  It's a great book.


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