By Kerry Hudson
Published by Chatto and Windus
Published in July 2012
Before I start my review, I should say that I personally know Kerry. We met on a 'Life Writing' module at university. There are a few paragraphs from the novel - food being hid under the sofa - that I remember from our workshop days. Kerry is inspiring. Many times she has told me to keep going with my own writing.
I am still going to give my honest opinion. Preview of the next few paragraphs: AWESOME!
Last year there was a national newspaper asking where have all of the working class novels gone. Well here's your answer - Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson.
We meet Janie as soon as she is born. In the hospital, her family stand around her, eyeing her suspiciously. She can smell booze and their breakfast on their breath. The beginning reminded me of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum as we get to see her character from birth and catapulted
into finding her way in a confusing world.
Tony Hogan tells the gripping coming of age story of Janie as she is catapulted along with her dysfunctional family through concrete council estates, through bed and breakfasts and bounces off another housing estate. Through Kerry's vivid descriptions, we are there with Janie every step of her journey (motion sickness included) as Janie and her mother claw their way out of Aberdeen, touch down in a former mining town, bus their way around London, end up in Scotland and finally they reach Great Yarmouth, alongside its slot machines and seafront cafes.
"So we trundled through the rainy streets; Ma in her nightie, winter coat and grubby plimsolls and me in a Moses basket propped on my pram."
Kerry's rich and clever language leads us through the eighties and nineties childhood of filthy-mouth Janie as she follows her Ma every Monday to the dole queue and to the supermarket for her chip dinners (and lots of them). I was cheer-leading Janie right from the beginning as she fights for freedom and becomes determined to break way from the past. She must fight to survive and battle her way through numerous 'uncles', booze, domestic abuse, drugs and bullies. A better, brighter future always seems to be just out of reach. But this book isn't a one way ticket to anti-depressants. Humour runs all the way through Tony Hogan.
I sprinted through the book over two days, only stopping to go on a Teaching Creative Writing course and to sleep. Tony Hogan is an addictive book. Promising to read 'just one more page' isn't enough.
Tony Hogan is a lively debut and I am really keen on reading more about Janie Ryan's adventures. Sorry Buddha in the Attic but you've been knocked off the top spot for best book in 2012.
You can pre-order Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma from your favourite bookstore.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy.