What I thought:
This is going to be one of the trickiest reviews I have ever written because I keep changing my mind on how I feel about it. It was chosen as my book groups read last month and is a book that I probably wouldn’t have picked up for myself (which is exactly what I love about book groups as it takes you out of your comfort zone, and I have found many a cracking read this way over the years).
Firstly, a little bit about the author that I have discovered while reading The Bricks That Built the Houses. Kate Tempest is an award-winning poet and a rapper who grew up in “a shitty part” of South London and had a wayward youth, living in squats and hanging around picket lines. This does not surprise me in the least. Her book felt like a simmering, bubbling, molten-hot pot of cynicism and discontent that is ready to spew and explode at any moment. It felt sometimes angry, sometimes jaded and always unflinching.
So what’s it about? Herein partly lies my struggle, as I’m not entirely sure. There are several main characters – Becky, Harry, Pete and Leon – all in their 20’s, all wanting something more than they have, and all living a daily battle with the life they are in. Aside from the main four, Tempest also takes us back in time with all the protagonists’ parents and their struggles and how they ended up where they did. It appears that whatever generation you’re from there is something that will get you down / hold you down and keep you down. I saw one quote somewhere that said: “this book leaves Generation Xers understanding the woes of millennials much better”. That probably sums up best how I feel about it. Maybe I’m more of a fogie than I realised. It basically seemed like everyone was on drugs, nobody wanted to earn an honest living, and everyone just wanted to hang around getting pissed and wasted.
The book itself could have done with a bit more editing. OK, a lot more. Tempest is a poet and a rapper and that was obvious in her prose. While there were some beautiful and lyrical moments of narrative, everything, it seemed, was a metaphor. At first, I quite liked this. Then it got too much, too quickly. To the point that I was rolling my eyes at the page and urging her to get on with it. Interestingly, she did towards the end; almost as if she had run out of them. And while we’re on the subject of the end: it left me with that dreaded “is that it?” feeling when you don’t feel that the ends have been tied up well enough. Now what?
So here’s the thing: while I hated parts of it, and early on could quite happily have put it to one side for later (or never), I ended up racing through this book and really quite enjoying it. I was invested, I wanted to know what was coming next, and I started to look forward to picking it up.
Whatever your view on the topics in the book, it’s certainly a good one to read in a book group!
Have you read this? I’d love to know what you think.