Forest Gate by Peter Akinti
|Forest Gate by Peter Akinti|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A deeply affecting novel about contemporary life in Britain. Moulding urban, black and refugee experience and dealing unflinchingly with suicide, it hurts to read - but never, ever forgets that love can save us all. It sounds trite, but the beauty of this book is that it isn't trite, and it's true. Peter Akinti was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: March 1992|
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape|
Best friends Arvin and James stand facing one another on twin tower blocks, looking out over London's urban sprawl. This is something they've planned carefully. It's almost a ritual. The couple enjoying an up-against-the-wall quickie down below might be finding things all the better for an audience, but they're little more than a minor distraction for James and Arvin. A last message, a last look, and then they jump.
Arvin dies at once, his neck broken. But James, oh, James doesn't. He wakes up in hospital, his neck lacerated by rope burns, with his five drug-dealing brothers and crackhead mother around his bed. Later, along comes Armeina, Arvin's sister, looking to make some kind of sense of his death. She needs to, since she is now her family's lone survivor. The torture and murder of their parents by the militia in Somalia is the reason Armeina and Ashvin came to Forest Gate.
Forest Gate is a deeply affecting novel about contemporary life in Britain. Moulding urban, black and refugee experience and dealing unflinchingly with suicide, it hurts to read it. It's also tremendously uncomfortable to watch Akinti pick apart this part of London life by drawing comparisons with poor, ravaged Somalia, but that is exactly what he does. I wonder, does the stop and search law really come with sexual assault by police officers attached? I suspect not; but if you make such dreadful laws, what do you expect but to see revealing but ugly lights shone upon them? Think on, Jacqui Smith, the next time you're off out for a kebab.
So, bleak it is, and true it is, but it isn't a desperate book. As James and Armeina are drawn more and more towards one another, we see that there is always a beacon of hope. And it lies in the connections we make with one another, the bonds we form, and the loves we share. Forest Gate never, ever forgets that love can save us all. It sounds trite, but the beauty of this book is that it isn't trite, and it's true.
My thanks to the nice people at Jonathan Cape for sending the book.
You might also enjoy The Dirty South by Alex Wheatle which covers some of the same ground and also has a tremendously touching love affair.
Peter Akinti was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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