Often brutal but always compassionate—a galvanizing piece of work by someone who obviously knows these mean streets.



A young black man struggles to surmount British ghetto culture in this brilliant sixth novel from Wheatle (The Seven Sisters, 2003, etc.).

At the outset, 23-year-old Dennis Huggins tells us he’s in Pentonville Prison but doesn’t say why, nor will he until almost the end of the novel. Long before then, however, readers know him well enough to appreciate the internecine warfare going on in his psyche. Dennis is smart, tough, arrogant and periodically mean-spirited, yet at the same time unswervingly loyal and capable of deep commitment. Born and bred in Brixton, the South London slum that hard-pressed sons and daughters like Dennis call “Bricky,” he well understands the neighborhood’s iron code, generally approves it and adheres to it when it suits him. Two main narrative lines structure his story. One has to do with friendship, the other with love. Noel Gordon has grown up with Dennis, fought alongside him and chased chicks with him. Partners in a thriving little street-corner drug-dealing business, the young men are like brothers. Dennis has spent two years crazy about Akeisha Parris, never daring to speak to her, yearning to “pack her away in my kit bag and take her home with me.” Akeisha is the prettiest girl he’s ever seen, but she is more than the sum of her lovely parts. Feisty and fiercely independent, she has her own closely held, high-minded value system, and yet something in anarchic Dennis reaches out to her. Inevitably, the two story lines intersect, at which point Dennis will act by the code and endure what he must.

Often brutal but always compassionate—a galvanizing piece of work by someone who obviously knows these mean streets.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-85242-985-0

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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