"Up The Junction" was first published in the 1960s, and is set in south London - with most of the stories following a rather well-off central character (apparently called Lily), and her two friends Sylvie and Rube. Rube and Sylvie are from Battersea, while our heroine is from Chelsea - practically an heiress, is the eyes of her two friends. The girls work in McCrindle's sweet factory, barely keep their heads above water financially, and sqeeze everything they can out of their free time - going to the pub and whatever parties they can find, chasing the men, scamming clothes on the hp and trying to avoid their debts...even avoiding ex-husbands and praying they won't get pregnant
Although our Chelsea heiress is apparently married she spends quite a bit of time with Dave - who she meets in the pub in the first story. There wasn't much in the way of romance, or happy endings for the characters in the book and, as Dave reveals more of his thoughts as the book goes on, it left me a little sad how things turned out for him. (Admittedly, both Rube and Sylvie have their difficulties and they probably contributed more to the scandal, when the book was adapted for television). Dave has a slightly grubby past - he has occasionally been known to steal the odd car or turn over the odd tobacconist - but is a largely likeable character. He now lives in Roehampton, having been moved out of his former house in a slum clearance - it's still standing, and he calls in every once in a while. Marriage is something that has to be done sooner rather than later - there was little romantic about Dave's marriage, and it's something he says he shouldn't ever have done. He sees his friends rushing into marriage, before all "the best ones" get taken. His real love was driving, and Dave would have given anything to have earned a living as a racing driver. Early in the book, he says he had a friend who'd died in a motorbike accident, and that he's sticking to cars...though his love for speed subsequently proves a little too much.
The book's most likeable character, for me, was Sheila the hunchback - who, in the world where there isn't much spare, seems to have even less than most. Sheila works with the girls in McCrindle's sweet factory, and is known as 'Bent Sheil'. (There seems to be a certain amount of affection behind the nickname and Sheila does seem to value the friendships she has in the factory). She doesn't go to the dances, but sometimes she has a little luck at the cafe... out of all the characters I met in the book, it was Sheila I wanted the best for.
A short and easily read book - it's more a collection of short stories, mostly featuring the same characters, than a novel. Dunn keeps the focus on the conversations, and scene-setting is kept to a minimum. It is, however, a very sad book...anyone who has any hopes or dreams will only see them thwarted, rather than fulfilled.