I really enjoyed this.
It rattles along at a fair old pace hooking you into the lives of the three main characters who are Jez, a white working class Coventry lad at odds with his upbringing, Pads, a privileged middle-class university drop out who struggles with his attraction to his fellow drop out Andy and Mehmet an Albanian emigree who tells the story of his life to an unknown listener with sadness and honour. The tale is set in 1984 and mainly takes place in Coventry, southern Spain and India. The attention to detail is good, without being stifling, but I did find it odd that there was no mention of the miners strike what with Cov being caught in the crossfire between the Arley and Keresley pits during the industrial action and Andy being such an advocate of ‘class war.’ I also wasn’t sure about the use of the phrase ‘chill out’ for that time period, I don’t remember hearing it but then I was only 14/15 at the time. These minor quibbles aside I found the book totally engaging and bought into the whole premise of two middle class blokes running a small drugs gang in Skaville UK, however improbable that may be.
I thought it was very brave of Packer to sidestep dealing with Andy head on, who for me is probably the focal point for the whole tale, and to only allow us to see him through the eyes of Jez and Pads, brave and inspired. This approach works really well and gives Andy real validity something which may have been lost if we heard things from his point of view. Packer has chosen three males as her main characters and she draws out very believable protagonists, these are people you know, or have known, I was impressed with how well she captured male view points especially on women, honour, family etc. without sounding tired or second hand. I don’t want to spoil the book by talking about the plot, so I won’t, all I will say is that it snakes and winds around to a very satisfying conclusion without feeling overly contrived. Some of the description in the book is just gorgeous and I wish I’d made notes as I was reading it do that I could share them with you.
Friends recommended this to me ages ago and I only wish I’d read it sooner as its one of those wonderful books that stay with you long after you’ve finished it, one of those rare books where you dread getting near to the end because you know you’ll have to leave those characters behind but that you push on with regardless because you have to find out what happens.
If you’re thinking about reading this stop thinking about it and start reading it, great stuff.