I have been reading up another storm this last week, I know, and today and tomorrow will be reviewing the last of the books I read on holiday. I don’t like broadcasting the fact that we’re both away, so I kept that a bit quiet, I know. And rather amazingly, I have managed to go to our much-loved town of Penzance and only come home with two books (and I left four at the hotel, bringing back one I’d taken down but then saved for the journey back) so I’d call that a win. I also got through 1.33 of my NetGalley TBR but won one book while I was away, so that’s less well done, I suppose. Anyway … Oh, I’ve just realised this TBR pic was a slight lie, as I had already removed the books to read on my trip as I needed to post the pic while we were away. However, I’ve added four books to the end of the TBR and only moved two to the front so there’s a balance there somewhere.

Courttia Newland – “Society Within”

(Acquired via BookCrossing 22 July 2017)

This book was published in 2000 and although it didn’t seem too dated, apart from the use of pagers, things have probably moved on and become more difficult to negotiate in its setting since then. Set on a West London housing estate, this lively, provocative and engaging novel shows in almost a set of short stories the interlocking lives of teenagers and their parents on and sometimes off the estate, although life off the estate is limited to visiting other estates and going Up West for often nefarious purposes.

There is sex, rape and gun violence, the latter being shown carefully at a distance and with consequences, but it’s not gratuitous. Attention is paid to people who are trying to improve their lives, like author Michael, tempted to get involved in some shady business in order to finally make some money, and Nathan, who wants to set up a pirate radio station. Both are trying to operate on the right side of the bad stuff, but are constantly tempted.

The youth club has already been threatened with closure and the youth workers go one of two ways – this was quite an upsetting aspect of the book, but probably rooted in reality, unfortunately: it’s clear that people can use networks of connections for good or for bad. Some people’s fates aren’t clear and I think this is a sequel, so some of their motives are also a little cloudy, with some scenes being about retribution or apology for past deeds. It’s interesting that parents are often as fallible as the kids, but the grandparents seem to stand firm and moral, even if their moral codes are a bit different from those of outside the estate.

Men are objectified as much as women and women are as strong and sassy as men; Newland writes women’s friendships well. It’s a good read, reminiscent of Bali Rai or Benjamin Zephaniah, although not as diverse racially.

On to the confessions.

I visited all of the charity shops of Penzance and only found Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” (I seem to buy running books in Penzance). I visited the marvellous Edge of the World Bookshop and bought Gillian Tindall’s “The Tunnel Through Time” which is about the layers of communities and history the excavation of the new Queen Elizabeth Line in London brought to light. I like to buy a “nice book” in this bookshop every time I go down, and got “The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees” there last time. I did go to Newlyn Books on Chapel Street, but only to buy a book for a friend who was giving us lunch, and not one to keep.

When I got home, I discovered that dear Ali had picked up on a hint I’d made (OK, quite a heavy hint) about the Virago Angela Thirkell re-issues, and had sent me a lovely copy of “The Headmistress”. As I was expecting a parcel from the Virgin London Marathon containing a top that you get sent when you DON’T get in, and my only other post was the quite dense journal of the Norse Atlantic Society, while Matthew had lots of lovely birthday cards, this was most cheering indeed.

I was thinking of sharing some photos from the holiday with my last review, especially as that book is set partly in Cornwall. Would you like to see those?