Young's short story collection chronicles life in London’s Finsbury Park neighborhood in the early 1980s.
There’s a fantastic sense of place and time in Young’s collection, which focuses on a group of working-class gay men living in London in the early years of Margaret Thatcher’s administration. Early in the book, the narrator—who shares some biographical details with the author—notes that Finsbury Park is “even in daytime the grayest of London districts.” That sets the mood neatly: Young isn’t here to romanticize this neighborhood but to give a sense of place for good and for ill. The episodic nature of this collection means that some of the characters are introduced multiple times, which can feel somewhat repetitive. Ultimately, though, Young is interested in discovering ways in which these characters can surprise his narrator, themselves, and one another. A politically inclined poet with a distaste for Thatcher’s politics and a fondness for writing misanthropic letters to the editors of various periodicals turns out, in person, to be warm and hospitable; a grotesque man with fascist inclinations hopes the people around him will turn a blind eye to his leftist past. Young neatly evokes a variety of settings, including political demonstrations, bars, and a stamp shop at which several of the characters are regulars. Among the running threads here is the legacy of the second world war and the Holocaust: in the powerful “In My Dreams I Can Drive,” the narrator meets an aging man who may have encountered his one-time Nazi tormentor—or may be losing his mind. In telling the narrator’s story, Young leaves room for plenty of others, to memorable effect.
Creating an impressive and tactile sense of the era in which they’re set, Young's stories summon up a host of memorable personages.