Blood Sister is a book I bought at Noirwich last year, after the Brit Noir session with author Dreda Say Mitchell and others. I was highly impressed with Ms Say Mitchell, and she gave me some sound advice on the treatment of some of my characters, and on the current use of wordage for some aspects of diversity. As in ‘black’ in the UK, ‘African-American’ in the US, and please don’t use food to describe skin colour!
Dreda Say Mitchell
Blurb (from Goodreads)
The first in a trilogy following one family over forty years on an East London estate, BLOOD SISTER is non-stop drama, perfect for fans of Kimberley Chambers and Mandasue Heller.
There are two ways out of Essex Lane Estate, better known as The Devil. You make good, or you turn bad.
Jen Miller is determined not to make the same mistakes her mother did. She’s waiting to find herself a good job and a decent man.
Her younger sister Tiff is running errands for a gangster and looking for any opportunity for fun and profit. But she might just be in over her head…
The choices you make and the plans you have don’t always turn out like you expect. Especially when you live on The Devil’s Estate. Jen and Tiff are about to learn that the hard way.
At least they can rely on each other.
This is a very different book from my normal fare. It’s modern, adult (although some might slip it into YA due to the age of the protagonists at the start). It’s set in the East End of London, not that far from places I know very well, and some of those turn up in this book. It starts in the late 70s, when I was living in Stoke Newington (the north-east end of London), which is a far cry from the yuppie up-market place it seems to be now, and working in Tottenham, of riots fame. Reading the story at this stage did feel like a step back in time; Ms Say Mitchell gets it right – grittily right, and it’s uncomfortable at times. All the depressing things about poverty, gangs and violence that I’ve walked away from. Ms Say Mitchell writes brilliantly. The words ooze from the page, then up and slap you in the face.
There are a fair number of twists in the first part, and you dread what the protagonists are going to become. Then part two sets you off into their future, and things have changed. The realism of the progression – babies, losses, and even career changes. What? These dead-end kids have careers? Yes, well, it happens, and I like it. I loved the move to Chigwell, beloved of ‘Birds of a Feather’, definitely within my old stamping grounds, and truly represented on the page.
And then there is the Big Twist. I certainly didn’t see it coming, and I practically fell off the sofa.
Despite the bleakness of the first part of the book, it is also wonderfully funny, and the people and characters beautifully observed.
Brilliant. Totally brilliant.