From the Morning Star.
My book of the year is The Handsworth Times (Bluemoose), Sharon Duggal’s account of life in early-80s working- class Birmingham, which is defined by greater and lesser griefs.
Mukesh Agarwal’s son Billy is knocked down and killed by a hurrying ambulance and, as he slips into even greater alcoholic incoherence and joblessness, the other family members move to different points of the grieving compass.
Their son Kavi becomes totally nihilistic. Nina the eldest daughter escapes to university and commits the most heinous crime — she falls in love with a Pakistani man. Kamela’s first experience of same-sex affection is shattered by violence and she retreats into the home.
Anila, the youngest and most outspoken daughter, joins the dots between the family’s struggles and those of the wider community and becomes an activist in the Handsworth Youth Movement.
But amongst the real solidarity lies betrayal and further violence and Anila must struggle to come to terms with a confusing and fallen world.
This book, utterly of its specific place and time but also universal in its themes, is a prose act of praise to the humanist spirit that will never succumb to fear and hatred.