Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/709/14147

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2012

Review

The best of 'literary fiction'

Dave Gorton

Last year, an episode of BBC's Culture Show on British 'literary fiction' featured 12 debut novelists. Literary fiction, rather a pompous tag, denotes literature or writers that don't fit into any one specific genre, ie crime, thriller. The writing rather than the subject matter makes the book.

I chose three books from the Culture Show's list which promised to cover 'political' issues rather than just tell a story.

The Observer's review called Adam Haslett's book Union Atlantic a "gripping tale of what happens when greedy corporate America collides with a stubborn old woman".

Set in 2001/2, it has echoes of the Barings Bank scandal. But it was written recently so 2007's worldwide banking collapse clearly has an effect on Haslett's writing.

Sadly, I found it unsatisfying. The old woman, Charlotte Graves, is an unlikely figure to represent anti-capitalism, and the garden party scene, presumably meant to represent the capitalist bubble bursting, is ridiculous.

In 1987, current Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist was winning the Coventry South East seat in the general election. Across the city, Jim Powell was the defeated Conservative candidate. But this Tory's first novel, The Breaking of Eggs, dealing with Eastern Europe in the 20th century reads well!

Powell makes an all too easy comparison of communism with fascism as twin evils and wrongly claims that socialism/communism is an ideal for youth which we grow out of as we get older. But he treats his lead character, Feliks Zhukovski, an unreconstructed Stalinist, with sympathy and the story, although far-fetched at times, makes the book a page-turner and a worthwhile read.

My third choice Stephan Kelman's Pigeon English has, since the programme was aired, already been shortlisted for the Booker prize. A bidding war between 12 publishers ended when Bloomsbury paid a 'high six-figure sum' - an incredible amount for a debut novel.

And it merits its praise. Pigeon English is tragic and funny in equal measures. The murder of Damilola Taylor on the North Peckham estate in 2000 is the story's real background.

Kelman delves into gang violence in inner-city London from the viewpoint of 11-year old Harrison Opoku, a recent arrival from Ghana in much the same way as Damilola's family had emigrated from Africa some years previously.

Kelman makes you think you're listening to an eleven-year old rather than a 30-something ex-local government worker: "In England they celebrate summer coming by everybody opening their windows wide up and putting their music on proper loud. It's a tradition. That's how you know it's summer. You have to do it when the sun first comes out. Everybody does it together."

And other events make brief entries into the dialogue: "Connor Green says the tube police have machine guns and if you run away they shoot you."

Pigeon English is a stunning debut and one I'd wholeheartedly recommend to all readers.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 15 March 2012:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Resist Cameron's cold cruelty

Fight the cuts - for a workers' alternative

Fight back against attacks on pensions

Those fracking Tories

Them & Us


Socialist Party workplace news

Construction workers fight on

Workplace news in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Widespread fraud alleged as Putin wins presidential poll

Kazakhstan: Oilworkers' lawyer freed from prison


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

National demo needed to save our NHS

Liberals' 'democratic' conference

Fighting Con-Dem attacks on education

14 March - Socialist Students get a response

Housing crisis in London

Library cash goes to supermarket bosses

Coventry: Fight for a socialist alternative

May Day greetings


Socialist Party congress

Socialist Party Congress 10-12 March 2012

World developments show - capitalism is crisis

Trade unions and workplaces

Britain: working class begins to 'rise like lions'

Building the Socialist Party: 'year of the branch'

Young, socialist and proud to be!


Reviews & readers' comments

'Westenders' - omnibus edition

The best of 'literary fiction'


 

Home   |   The Socialist 15 March 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  




Related links:

BBC:

triangleGender pay gap figures show need for trade union action

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleBBC yawning pay gaps revealed

Eastern Europe:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Eastern Europe - a revival of class struggle

triangleGorbachev: Accidental architect of world change

triangleCzechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism

triangleVictory against government's war on eastern European homeless

Capitalism:

triangleThe growth of artificial intelligence technology

triangleSan Francisco Bay Area's toxic smoke crisis and capitalism's mismanagement

triangleWe need system change to halt climate change

Africa:

triangleJoin the fight for refugee rights

triangleFighting for socialism amid capitalist chaos

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

28/11/18

Trump

Trump is capricious and dangerous - but is he really in charge?

28/11/18

Theatre

Wonderful socialist play finds Edwardian poverty not in past

28/11/18

Poverty

End "poverty, ill health and despair":a benefits adviser speaks out against the cuts

21/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

21/11/18

Blairites

Nothing to offer from the Blairites

14/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

14/11/18

Theatre

Theatre: The Last Seam - a lasting tribute to Mary Jackson

14/11/18

Jeremy Corbyn

Engaging book about Corbyn's rise doesn't provide answers on how to change Labour

7/11/18

Film

Nae Pasaran: a film about working-class solidarity

7/11/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

31/10/18

Lucas Aerospace

'Lucas Plan' film tells story of workers who set out alternative to job losses

31/10/18

Letters

The Socialist inbox

24/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

17/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

10/10/18

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999