Thursday, August 8, 2019

In Our Mad And Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

In present day London, tensions are high after a police officer is killed on the street by a young man of color.  This novel follows the life of various characters in the aftermath of this occurrence.  Most live in public housing which is known as the estates and most are attempting to make a better life for themselves and for their families.

There is Selvon who is the athlete.  He has his eye on making the Olympic team and spends his days training, running, boxing, playing football with his friends.  His parents are Jamaican immigrants.  Caroline is a middle-aged woman who came to London from Ireland when her family got mixed up in IRA politics and sent her away to avoid any trouble.  Ardan is Caroline's son and is small and shy.  Few know that he is intensely interested in grime music, the next generation of hip hop or rap and has an amazing skill for generating songs.   Yusuf is Muslim.  His father was the Iman and moderate but was recently killed in a car accident.  The new Iman is strict and determined to bring all the members of his congregation under his control.  He has plans for Yusuf and his brother that Yusuf wants to avoid; he just wants to hang with his friends and go to school.  Finally, there is Nelson, Selvon's father who came to England as a young man and is caught up in the first racial tension with the bully boys who don't want anyone coming to their country if they are a different nationality or color or culture.

This is a vibrant, interesting novel.  The writing is fresh and brash and the reader will take a while to settle into the new words and phrases which are unfamiliar to them.  But the characters are real, struggling to make a life that is fulfilling and going about it in different ways.  Without preaching, the message comes through strongly that only by accepting others will we all move forward.  This book was longlisted for the Booker Prize and readers will be glad to be introduced to this fresh new voice.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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