At first I was going to label this book as a bit of a tedious read. Packed with characters (five), it is quite trapping. Quite trapping to the extent that it could be suffocating at times. But I do believe that for fictional characters to invoke in me such a degree of irritation (Ned) and boredom (Jack) only means that the writer is a very very good one.
The story as the title suggests takes place along 'South of the River' and is rich with description and factual events. It broaches politics (the high hopes envisaged by all as the Labour party comes into power and progressively its demise), sex, fidelity, family and family values, racism, death, partnership, women's liberation, fox hunting as well as a variety of other issues that come about in the course of the novel as the characters go about their daily lives. Lives very similar to our own. It does unmask what British society has become; namely the society that the Blair government has produced whether intentionally or not but has nonetheless. I won't pass my judgement onto you but will leave you to make your own.
As I mentioned I stopped short of giving this book an undeserving review. The whole book (according to the author in one of his interviews) was inspired by foxes that lurked around the area of his residence in Blackheath. At various parts of the book we are taken through stories of foxes ranging from the amusing to the utterly incredulous to the absolutely horrifying to say the least.
I was amused but not a believer until last night when I was rudely awakened by the sound of a screeching bone chilling wail which, as I looked out of the window, belonged to a squirrel whose ill fortune had made it breakfast to a canny fox. I will never forget that howl or that wail that seemed to be not only an echo but a confirmation of what Morrison had written and now I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will be some time before I forget this book, if ever.
South of the River by Blake Morrison, £17.99 (at Waterstones)