Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What Was Promised by Tobias Hill

Bernadette and Clarence Malcolm have come to Bethnal Green, London, from Jamaica with their young son. Solly and Dora Lazarus are Jews who are trying to earn a living and make a good life for themselves. Mary and Michael Lockhart have come from Birmingham and their attitudes and actions will have a deep and lasting impact on all three families. All are outsiders, all are trying to become part of this strange bomb ravaged city and all are destined to be thrown together in a strained unison as the city rebuilds itself.

This novel is set amongst the markets of London’s East End and spans a 40 year period.  It portrays a city undergoing change along with those people who are trying to assimilate into this unfamiliar world.

Now, before I even begin to tell you why, I am going to say that I love, love, love this book and it contains all the elements a good novel should have.

First, I love the setting. I grew up in the very area the book is based and, therefore, I recognized many of the landmarks and features described in this novel. In fact, I went to primary school in Columbia Road and I well remember Jones’ Dairy where my mum would send me to buy milk and where cheese and butter was sold individually cut and wrapped in little brown greaseproof packets. This familiarity certainly resonated with me and the setting drew me in very quickly.

However, whilst my personal familiarity with the setting enhanced my reading of this novel I am certain that anyone who reads this will feel a connection with the place element of this book as the area is portrayed as strongly as the characters are. It is thoroughly atmospheric and as the book is broken down into three separate times; 1948, 1968 and 1988 we can observe the changing nature of the area as the book progresses.

Additionally, I love the characters in this book. They are all well rounded and I ended up feeling like I actually knew these people and genuinely cared about what would happen to them. The author has skilfully created three sets of characters who are all completely different but whose lives are inexorably linked by events as well as the building and street that they all share. It was interesting to observe how the attitudes of the children differed to that of their parents and provided much food for thought concerning the lives of immigrants and how this affects subsequent generations.

There was nothing to dislike about this book. It has a marvellous plot, fantastic characterization and is outstanding in it’s atmosphere and setting. It focuses on themes of immigration, acceptance and aspiration and I highly recommend this book. It is intelligently written and will appeal to anyone who likes their reading material to be thought provoking, knowledgeable and skilful in its execution.

I get a real thrill when I read an author for the first time and then discover that they have a back catalogue. Mr. Hill has written five previous novels and I can’t wait to get started.

ISBN:  978 1408840900

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Circus

Price (based on today’s price at Amazon.co.uk): £11.55

Total saving so far:  £295.22

Want to buy a copy of What Was Promised? Click HERE to purchase.

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