Friday, 5 December 2014

Brenton Brown by Alex Wheatle

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What we thought: Brenton Brown is a sequel to Wheatle’s debut novel, Brixton Rock.

It’s 2002 and Brenton Brown, the Stepping Volcano, is pushing forty. He has a good business as a carpenter/builder, a roof over his head, a steady girlfriend. Life ought to be good.

But Brenton has never got over his brief affair with his half-sister. Juliet is married to a successful banker and is making her way in the world of politics. Their daughter, Breanna, is turning twenty-one and knows Brenton only as her uncle. Brenton knows he should leave well enough alone and move on. But when their mother, whom he met first in his late teens, dies, it seems it is harder than ever to let go of his perfect love.

South London may have changed beyond recognition in the late 1970s. But Wheatle reminds us that, if you are young and black, like Breanna and her mates, you may face a world no less brutal than the one Brenton, Floyd and Coffinhead had to negotiate thirty years earlier.

Wheatle’s dialogue is as rich with Jamaican and South London slang as ever. But this is not just a slice of inner city life in the 21st Century. Brenton and Juliet’s story moves onward with the remorselessness of a Greek tragedy.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Brixton Rock and East of Acre Lane by Alex Wheatle, Londonstani by Gautam Malkani

Avoid if you dislike: Fiction that is far from escapist

Perfect accompaniment: Rice and peas, and a few tracks of Barrington Levy

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Available from Amazon.

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