Posted by: billpurdue | September 15, 2012

Revolutionary writing?

It’s been some time since I last posted anything for this blog, so if you have been wondering what I have been doing, which might distract me from this important task, well I’ve just been very busy with my September column for the Chad. This hopefully will appear in the Chad on Wednesday 19th or 26th. Anyway, apologies for the delay.

The two books I want to mention this time are quite different, but in their own way could perhaps be described as revolutionary or about some kind of revolution. The first one – GB84 by David Peace – was published in paperback as part of Faber and Faber’s “Revolutionary Writing” series. It deals with the 1984 miners’ strike, a turbulent period for the country. Whilst the characters are fictional, each chapter follows the course of the strike, with the chapter headings denoting the specific week in which the events are supposed to have taken place. Also each chapter is preceded by one page of a sort of diary by a flying picket detailing his activities travelling from colliery to colliery, dodging the police and problems at home with the pitmen’s wives. There is a character always referred to as “The Jew”, who spends his time being chauffeured between his club (Claridges) and various picketing hotspots by Neil, who seems to have an agenda of his own. Then there is a union official, Terry, who is trying to do the right thing at high level meetings, but not always meeting the approval of his superiors – or comrades.

 I have to admit that I gave up on this after about a third of the way through – I just wasn’t enjoying it, especially because of the style of writing. Those who have read books by David Peace will be familiar with what can only be described as a staccato style of writing : short sentences, sometimes very short, many completely in italics; very short paragraphs and some passages in the present tense and some in the past tense. Whatever else you think about it, the style certainly paints the right kind of picture of those troubled times.  The Times Literary Supplement described it as “compelling, painful, reading for anyone concerned with the recent life of Britain”. I think ‘painful’ is an appropriate word.

[Faber £7.99 pbk. 9780571258208, strong language throughout]


… more up my street…

…though I did have my doubts about this next one: The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been a tremendously successful novel and deservedly so. I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy this kind of story, but after reading only a short way into the book, I was completely hooked.

 Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, when segregation of black and white was the norm, the book is about the development of a friendship between Skeeter Phelan, a white woman, who lives with her parents on a plantation and two black maids who work for white families: Aibileen and Minny. Skeeter is an aspiring journalist who starts off by writing a regular advice column for the local newspaper about household matters – how to get rid of stains etc -, but the trouble is she knows nothing about it. She gets help by talking to the maid, Aibileen, who works for one of Skeeter’s  friends. Gradually Skeeter gets to know Aibileen and Minny, Aibileen’s friend. Trying to move on from household advice, Skeeter has ambitions to write a book and eventually succeeds in getting Aibileen and Minny to help her write about the experiences of black maids who work for white families, helping to bring up their children. Meetings between the three women have to be held in secret: if discovered they would be in deep trouble. This gets even more dangerous when other black maids are persuaded to talk about their experiences, especially as Skeeter knows the families socially. There’s plenty of suspense and quite a few edge of the seat moments. I found myself picking the book up when I was in the middle of something else – if you are not one of the many millions who have already read this, I can thoroughly recommend it.

As far as I know Kathryn Stockett hasn’t written anything else – yet. Her next book is eagerly awaited.

[Penguin £7.99 pbk. 9780141039282]




  1. Does this site have a page on Facebook?

    • Sorry, I don’t use Facebook or Twitter for this blog BP

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