Top positive review
Wonderful tragi-comedy of growing up second generation West Indian in Luton
on 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_.