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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars


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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2014
Colin Grant is a talented writer. He has a fine sociological eye, which means he would make a good stand up comedy or a great cutting edge writer. If you can remember polystyrene ceiling tiles, 'Bonanza' on the tv, your dad's first car - perhaps a Ford Capri with faux leopardskin seat covers with bead seat massagers and hanging wotnots, like mine <g> - or an anxiety-inducing Hillman Imp like Grant's which needs each occupant to get up and push ieach time it comes to a hill, you can empathise with Grant's childhood in the suburbs of Luton. Grant's family was part of the loose West Indian community and he captures so well the card and domino-playing men with their shots of rum and nicknames such as "Shine".

It is very moving in parts and other parts are so funny I laughed out and I am certainly not a laugh out loud type. There is a fine line between tragedy and comedy and Grant's recounting of his and his brothers trip to posh St Colomba's publci school in upmarket St Albans for the entrance exam, in aforesaid banger, was one such moment of sheer pathos when one did not whether to laugh or cry (so I did both).

Grant is a fine writer usually of non-fictions. His debut foray into fiction is very successful. Whilst his non-fiction (for eaxmple _Natural Mystics_ (about Bob Marley & the Wailers) is packed with fascinating historical and biographical facts, his fiction here, by contrast is plain and simple in sparse prose. A beautiful writing voice.

The novel - which is autobiographical - is moving, funny, tragic and explores Grant's relationship with his far from perfect father superbly. Although his father is a difficult man, we understand the hardship and poverty of trying to raise three children whilst working at the local car factory, and with all the vicissiitudes of being a West Indian immigrant of the 50's/60's, with all the ensuign race discrimination. The caricature of how he is spoken to in the high street hardware store could be straight out of a situation comedy and easily identifiable with high street hardware stores throughout England. Heavy condescension disguised as politeness is a scene recognisable to any reader (or any creed or culture).

Beneath it all, you can sense the deep affection Grant has for his recalcitrant dad for all his defects as a good father.

Colin Grant really ought to be shorltisted for a literary prize. This is on the same level as Keith Waterhouse's _Billy Liar_.
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on 18 March 2017
Highly recommended.
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on 8 April 2012
This is a superb book, Grant's best so far and one that really establishes him as a literary writer of great skill and delicate human judgement. This memoir of growing up black in Luton in the 1970s is so enjoyable because it is both funny and fearful - fear of the father, Bageye, kept this reader on the edge of her seat throughout, as it did the five children of the house at the time - and yet Grant somehow manages to make his father both hilarious and admirable as Bageye tries to maintain standards as a man, and as a black man, who will not be second-guessed, patronised or cheated by the white man whose country he has entered. Honest to a fault at times and yet a liar, loving and terrorising his children, Bageye is unforgettable, and finally, tragic, but the book somehow always manages to respect him in his uniqueness, and to record his charm and style. The character Grant is hardest on is himself as a 12-year-old boy - he avoids the temptation of all memoir writers to make himself heroic, even though the reader discovers almost as an afterthought that the writer was once an unbeatable schoolboy boxer ( and forbidden to continue with it by his father, because he didn't want his boys to do anything the white man expected of them - ie athletics, boxing, physical prowess.) This book is, thank god, a thousand miles away from being a misery memoir: the sub-text is a story of intelligent survival on the part of the writer, but the surface records and celebrates a vanished culture, where Luton's small number of Caribbean men have their own names for each other and their own language, complex loyalties and rivalries, a cult of the car and hard-won, constant happinesses from which the women are excluded: to me the 'fellas' were a kind of Greek chorus whose entry I always looked forward to. This book has a light, dextrous voice that leaves the reader alone to laugh or grieve and a skilful shape, as a year in this boy's life somehow represents the longer, deeper tale of Caribbean migrants in Britain. The ending was one of a small number of endings to literary books that genuinely surprised me; its events turned most of my emotions about Bageye on their head, but it also left me entirely satisfied - through this book I had known a man, and his time, and the effects of what he did on those who came after him. A terrific achievement at both an artistic and a human level.
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on 1 May 2013
Colin Grant introduces us to "Bageye", his father, and talks us through a very formative year in the author's early adolescence in the early 1970's in Luton. Colin is one of five children of Jamaican immigrant parents, who are struggling to get to grips with their new homeland, battling against poverty, and fighting with each other.
Grant must have written this at about the same age his father was in this memoir, and has presumably been waiting for his father's death before publishing, for this is a searing portrait of one man's battle with himself and the outside world, in trying to do the right thing for his family. Frequently, Bageye fails in this task . . . at least as far as his frightened "Pickney" and wife Blossom are concerned. Everyone runs scared of Bageye, as he lumbers splenetically from card-game to factory-floor to junk-shop, trying to scrape-by, and meet what he sees as his socially-aspiring wife's un-ending requests for house-keeping, new furniture, children's clothes and school fees. This high-lights the difficulties of immigrant families in England, but more than that, it covers some universal issues: a father's terror of the responsibility of raising a family, a mother's absolute determination to push her children into a better place in the future, and a son's loving, longing, look-back at both of them.
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on 13 November 2015
I loved this book, and could hardly put it down, what with its sharp delineation of a home clinging on by its fingertips and characters I feel I've known personally, having visualised them throughout. The book is as much a memoir of Colin Grant's childhood as it is a portrait of his father, Clinton 'Bageye' Grant; Jamaican ways blend with English poverty, seasoned with the intermittent abuse of the whole family by Bageye. I learned that Bageye's selfish, dismissive and unintelligent attitude to his family must follow a pattern as well as crossing cultures, having recognised in Bageye several hallmarks of my own father's and first husband's abusive behaviour; both men were entirely different from Bageye in every other way. Some of Bageye's behaviour thus made emotional reading for me. Most difficult for Colin I expect, because not anticipated, were those 'small kindnesses' as psychologists call them - the occasional apparent remorse on Bageye's part, the times when Colin felt fleetingly close to his father (oh, how hard he tried to be!) such as helping him put up ceiling tiles while missing his favourite TV programme, The Waltons, knowing that he was helping his father just as John-Boy Walton, next door on the TV, was helping his. So that made it all right. The last chapters are short and quite matter-of-fact about Bageye's downward trajectory, as if Colin has just had enough of the wretched man. It must have taken tremendous courage to write this book - courage to face the awful feelings that such reminiscences would certainly have evoked from start to finish. But I hope it has been cathartic too.
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on 4 March 2015
A real gem of a book, touching, witty and a fabulous insight into the lives of working class West Africans living in Luton in the 1970's. The characters are rich and alive, and every chapter is compelling. Beautifully written and stays with you long after the final page is read.
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on 19 November 2016
This book grew on you. For me it started slowly but grew into a very good read, and rather a sad ending. It reminded you of several different strands of life in the 1970's.The assembly line of a motor manufacture-Vauxhall Motors, the life of a West Indian immigrant, and the second generation West Indian, his children. Colin Grant writes with feeling and understanding, and also expresses the naivety of a 10 year old child. He conveys the hierarchical structure that exists in a West Indian family.
This book is a very enjoyable read,and you do wonder what happened to Bageye, did he go to his Bluefoot? or did he just disappear?
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on 21 April 2013
Great reading, brought back lots of memories. didn't realise how hard it was for such a lovely family, well-written Colin.
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on 15 April 2012
I've been struggling to slow down with reading 'Bageye'...it's like the finest, smoothest liquor experience that I don't want to end.
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on 13 June 2015
Brought back some great memories!
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