A galvanizing account of the power of female rage: Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister ★★★★½

Women aren’t supposed to display rage. While men’s ire is ‘comprehensible’ and ‘rational’, angry women are chaotic, unhinged, unnatural. Of course, we’ve got a lot to be angry about. This double standard is just one more addition to a growing list of rage-inducing injustices. In this powerful, incisive account, Traister traces the history and power of women’s anger, how it has been received and perceived over time, and how it is inherently powerful. Written in the months following the election of Donald Trump, this is very much a book about a particular contemporary moment in American history.

The rage of women, Traister convincingly and meticulously argues, is a catalyst for societal change in the US – despite the disdain, disgust and ridicule that is heaped upon these women. Mamie Till, the mother of lynched schoolboy Emmett Till, insisted upon an open casket at his funeral: the world would not be permitted to look away from the unimaginable racist violence inflicted upon him. Mamie Till, Traister writes, is ‘most often pictured as a grieving mother being held up at her son’s coffin, weeping… What we are never trained to consider is that alongside her sorrow and suffering was a burning rage.’ This was a rage that would help propel the struggle for civil rights and change the course of American history. She also turns to Rosa Parks, often presented in a sanitized way and lauded for her stoicism and refusal to show anger – when in fact she had been a ‘lifelong furious fighter against sexual and racial violence, a defender of black men wrongly accused of sexual misconduct by white women, and an elected NAACP secretary who investigated the rape claims of black women against white men’. As a more contemporary example, she turns to the crusade of the Parkland students, demanding an end to gun violence in the wake of another horrific school shooting. 16-year-old Sarah Chadwick, in a tweet that went viral, responded to Trump’s thoughts and prayers with ‘I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Do something instead of sending prayers.’ Such rage galvanized Chadwick and her peers towards nationwide protests and resonated with millions of Americans, for whom her anger spoke to their own desperation over the inevitability of relentless gun violence. The year before, the election of a white supremacist and abuser to the White House in 2016 inspired the Women’s March movement and a resurgence of activism for women of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.

In the twenty-first century, it is still ‘unfeminine’ to be angry. To be angry is to be obscene and hysterical, our anger is pathologized. Women in the public eye – particularly those in politics, such as Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris – are frequently discredited for transgressing that boundary: ‘The best way to discredit these women, to make them look unattractive, is to capture an image of them screaming’, Traister writes. ‘…The act of a woman opening her mouth with volume and assured force, often in complaint, is coded in our minds as ugly.’ Ugly, unlikable, not to be trusted. By contrast, white men display rage with impunity, and are often portrayed in a far more sympathetic light – just think of the so-called ‘lone wolf’ perpetrators of mass shootings who are supposedly misunderstood loners or lovesick teens – something Traister explores in a later chapter, using the term coined by Kate Manne: ‘himpathy’.

We have the voices of stalwart feminists throughout – Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem and many more – peppered with Traister’s own personal experiences, lending depth and personality to the essays. I felt seen in her chapter about tears as ‘one of the most frequent outlets for our wrath’ and the depressing truth that they are ‘fundamentally misunderstood’ by the men who witness them. There is nothing more infuriating than involuntary weeping out of fury – except for the fact that men may misread the anger as sadness, something to be pitied.

‘One of my sharpest memories from an early job, in a male-dominated office, where I too once found myself weeping with inexpressible rage, was being grabbed by the scruff of my neck by an older woman—a chilly, hard-ass manager of whom I’d always been slightly terrified—who dragged me into a stairwell. “Never let them see you crying,” she told me. “They don’t know you’re furious. They think you’re sad and will be pleased because they got to you.”‘

She also takes care to explore how anger is not perceived the same across colour lines: Black women must resist ‘America’s cheapest caricature’ of the Angry Black Woman. Quoting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘for black American women, there is an added expectation of interminable gratitude, the closer to groveling the better, as though their citizenship is a phenomenon that they cannot take for granted’. Similarly, while white women’s tears – of anger, rather than rage – can be perceived sympathetically by white men (or indeed, weaponized by the women themselves) – the same cannot be said for the perception of a Black woman expressing emotion in the same way. They are not afforded the same sympathy, and suffer to an even greater extent as race and gender intersect.

A large part of the book is spent discussing #MeToo in an impassioned and clear-eyed way, where she turns to her own experience of meeting Weinstein as a young journalist. She describes the movement as giving us a ‘view of the architecture of sexism that had been holding everything up.’ The cacophony of voices speaking out meant that women could no longer be derided and disbelieved: there was safety and power in accumulative rage – and perhaps the beginning of breaking everything apart.

‘If they are quiet, they will remain isolated. But if they howl in rage, someone else who shares their fury might hear them, might start howling along.’

In art, and media, and politics, and justice – female rage can incite change. While we are at a different moment now – both better in some ways, worse in others, reeling from a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v Wade, this book still feels powerful, and galvanizing, and a convincing rallying cry to embrace our anger.

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner: A piercing page-turner of obsession and reinvention ★★★★

We’re in London, just before the turn of the millennium. Meggie, a transplant from South Africa, works a ‘media monitoring’ job where she combs through the day’s news to summarize horrible crimes. It’s there that she is drawn into the orbit of her enigmatic colleague Sabine. When Sabine switches to the night shift, Meggie follows her growing obsession for the beautiful Belgian woman and decides to join her. She both desires her – she thinks – and desires to be just like her.

‘Negative space is the lifeblood of obsession. In the late nineties, I felt as I was mostly negative space. Although I wasn’t the daughter my mother wanted, I’d never had the guts to rebel. She said I was like my father: passive, meek, defined more by what I bumped up against than what I chose.’

In Sabine, Meggie sees a window of opportunity: she can reinvent herself in Sabine’s image: glamorous, destructive, mysterious. The nocturnal existence wrecks Meggie in almost every conceivable way: she can’t sleep during the day, so she simply stops sleeping. She breaks up with her steady but boring boyfriend. She quits her further education pursuits.

There’s a hallucinatory feeling to the novel once Meggie begins her nightshifts. She befriends her colleagues Earl, Lizard, Sherry and Prawn, and together they drink and take drugs for lack of anything better to do. I loved the haunting, twilit London of the book, the seedy clubs and bars, the pubs that pour you a pint (or stronger) at 8am, and the oddball crew Meggie spends her days and nights with.

Meggie and Sabine’s friendship – maybe more – takes over Meggie’s life. Sabine both lures her in and lets her go, cruelly ignoring her for weeks, kissing her and then calling her “my cute friend who I kiss”. She’ll send Meggie blank texts on her new phone so she can get her attention without giving her anything in return. Meggie is desperate to know Sabine, but finds it hard to scratch below the surface. And she falls ever deeper into a spiral of self-destructive, dangerous behaviour in a pursuit to escape who she is.

‘Our Cinderella coach had turned into a pumpkin. Sabine would be ever divine whereas I was just Megan again; I couldn’t get beyond the body, the mood, the self. There was a walk, a wait, a train, a bus. As we tenderly parted ways, I tried to think, This is only the beginning – But I knew, even then, it wasn’t true.’

Meggie, despite her very poor decision making, is an empathetic and vulnerable character who encapsulates what it is to be adrift and desperate in your early twenties. We come to realise that the novel is being narrated by Meggie twenty years into the future, which provides interesting perspective and distance from those intoxicating days. It also means we see what ultimately unfolds between the two characters over time. I felt the ending to be a little uneven, not quite as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. Still, it’s a blistering page-turner of a book.

TW: sexual violence, drug abuse

Intriguing and pacy family drama: The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell ★★★½

Lisa Jewell’s author note reads that she has always been adverse to writing sequels. I am also adverse to reading sequels – especially when I’m not sure I can remember what happened in part one (thank goodness for reviews for jogging my memory!) It turns out I needn’t have worried. While it helps to have read The Family Upstairs, her first psychological thriller/family drama about the Lamb and Thomsen families in the ‘house of horrors’, all salient plot points are summarized in this sequel – so you can just dive on in.

In case you haven’t read part one, here’s a quick précis: as children, Lucy and her brother Henry were subject to unspeakable horrors after a conman called David Thomsen moved into their London home and manipulated and abused their family. They escaped as teens in the early nineties, and as the novel begins, have been recently reunited in the present day. David’s son, Phineas, has also been living under the radar for the past thirty years after making a break from the home – but he hasn’t been seen or heard of since.

One more thing – Lucy and Phin had a child when they were teenagers, a baby that is now a 26-year-old woman, Libby, who has reconnected with her birth mother but wants to know more about Phin. And Henry, who has been in love with Phin since they were boys, also wants to track him down. The problem is, Phin doesn’t really want to be found.

‘Their shared history is so big that it’s sometimes as if mere words cannot contain it and that it exists only in the pauses and the silences and the unfinished sentences. Twenty-six years is long enough for memories to grow cobwebby, abstract. Twenty-six years is long enough to doubt your recollection of things, to wonder if things really did happen the way you think they happened.’

Alongside this narrative are two additional story lines: a bag of bones is discovered in the Thames and leading the investigation is DCI Samuel Owusu, and a young woman, Rachel, finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a shady businessman, Michael. Rest assured everything comes together as the plot progresses. Although Rachel is more of a secondary character, I was gripped by her story line and desperate for her to get justice.

Henry is a beguiling character, and I remember his first-person narrative being the POV I enjoyed the most in The Family Upstairs. He is similarly fascinating and multifaceted here: you never know quite how he’s going to behave. But there’s an underlying sadness, too – a delicate exploration of the idea that these are adults still grappling with the childhood trauma that will never truly leave them, a trauma that leaves Henry with ‘a churning in my soul of loss and emptiness and lack and incompleteness…’ and Lucy with ‘the dull dread that blunts everything…’

‘Lucy lies and listens to the sounds of London traffic outside the bedroom window and she feels it again, this awful feeling that has followed her for over a year, the tightness around her skull, the dull dread that blunts everything with its incessant chipping away at her sense of security.’

There are many a preposterous coincidence in this novel, I won’t disagree (and is the reason I’m knocking off half a star). But they serve to push the narrative along at a pacy speed, whereas The Family Upstairs is more of a slow burn. It grapples with tough topics with finesse, and is a worthy sequel.

TW: rape, emotional abuse

Other books you may enjoy…

Propulsive and unsettling literary suspense: Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka ★★★★½

The hours are ticking down until Ansel Packer’s execution. And as he awaits his grim fate – in passages ingeniously told in second-person present, making it impossible to look away – the story of how he comes to be sitting on death row in a Texas prison slowly unravels.

But this isn’t a narrative propelled by our insatiable fascination with charismatic serial killers (although Ansel is both of those things). Instead, it centres the women irrevocably touched by Ansel’s heinous crimes. It starts with Lavender: a young mother married to a dangerous man and isolated on a farm in the middle of nowhere. In a desperate attempt to give her small sons the chance of a better life, she abandons them and calls the authorities to step in. One of those young boys in Ansel. 

‘You do believe in the multiverse. The eternal possibility of it. There is a version of you out there – a child, unabandoned. A boy who came home from school to a mother who read you stories and kissed your forehead goodnight.’

Elsewhere, Saffron Singh is a police detective who was in a group home with Ansel as a child, and was witness to his disturbing behaviour (textbook: killing and dismembering animals from a young age). The third woman in the narrative is Hazel, the twin sister to Ansel’s wife, Jenny.

‘Tragedy had a texture. A knot, begging to be unraveled.’

The novel brims in emotional depth and insight, offering no excuses or explanations but still interrogating thorny questions – are we fated to be a certain way? Would things have been different in a parallel life? Is our justice system truly delivering justice?

It’s excruciating to read at times, as the barbarity of Ansel’s violence is brought home in a crushing way. The murdered women are briefly given parallel lives on the page, as Kukafka imagines all that they would have gone on to do – walking the cobblestones of Italy licking gelato off a plastic spoon, raising sons and daughters who would then go on to live their own full, whole lives. 

‘There are millions of other moments Izzy has lived, but he has eaten them up one by one, until she exists in most memories as a summation of that awful second, distilled constantly in her fear, her pain, the brutal fact.’

Ansel shows no remorse and offers no justification for his acts of terrible violence. But the novel makes clear that as it is senseless to kill innocent people, it is senseless for the state to sanction killings. The hours before and leading up to his death – no matter how evil and unforgivable his crimes – never feel like justice done right. 

It’s completely unputdownable, even as we know the ending before it even begins, it doesn’t stop it being a stunning, complex narrative spinning around questions of fate, choice, justice, and the spaces in between.

Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish – a raw, funny and fascinating account of motherhood ★★★★

When Hollie McNish became a parent, she soon realised that there was a lot – an awful lot – that nobody talks about. So she sets about to change that in this compassionate, raw, truthful collection of poetry and prose about motherhood. The early days of the book take us through her morning sickness at Glastonbury and her anxious granny trying to put a ring on her wedding finger every time she leaves the house, through to trying to keep a toddler occupied on an 8-hour train journey to Scotland and finally waving her off to her first day at nursery. Hollie lays bare the delightful, mundane, exhausting and thrilling experiences that make up modern motherhood.

‘First thoughts after birth: 1. Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ was not as funny on the birthing CD as I had hoped.’

This is a poetry collection, but it’s much more, too – Hollie shares her journal entries from those early days of pregnancy through the goriness of birth and the newborn exhaustion and delight, the ‘one long daydream’ of trying to keep a small human alive. Her writing is candid and funny, playful yet serious, as she discusses the policies that create gendered chasms in the domestic division of child-rearing to the inelegance of having to breastfeed in a toilet cubicle because there are no other options.

‘I now know who is to blame for post-baby relationship issues too. The government. The one that gives you two weeks’ paternity leave so that as soon as you have a baby, the mum and dad are thrown into separate world where one thinks the other is getting to stay at home and bond with the baby on a comfy sofa and the other curses the independence and adult life the other still gets. And no one can understand the other’s world any more.’

She openly explores the identity shift upon becoming a parent – both within and outside of herself. Society, she soon realises, is full of opinions. People heckle ‘teen mum!’ at her on the street (she’s 27), tut loudly when she travels with her toddler during rush hour, demand to know why she continues to breastfeed when her baby can walk and talk. When she’s able to get away to a workshop and poetry slam for a few days in Latvia, she revels in being someone other than a parent, just for a small stretch of time. Some of my favourite poems in the collection were Reading To You and The League-Table Toddlers. Even if you’re not ordinarily a poetry fan, her writing is so fresh and accessible, and the diary entries contextualise her thoughts very well. I knocked off one star because it probably could have been edited a little more rigorously (it’s long!) but I nevertheless devoured it in a few days.

It’s also not just for parents or parents-to-be – likelihood is we will all know someone with a child, whether now in in the future – and so I’d recommend this one for anyone who wants to better understand this unique, bizarre experience that many people go through but that no-one really seems to openly talk about.

7 books on my autumn 2022 TBR

Bliss Montage
by Ling Ma

Genre: literary fiction

‘A new creation by the author of Severance, the stories in Bliss Montage crash through our carefully built mirages… What happens when fantasy tears through the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?’

The Family Remains
by Lisa Jewell

Genre: psychological thriller

‘From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell comes an intricate and affecting novel about twisted marriages, fractured families, and deadly obsessions in this standalone sequel to The Family Upstairs.’

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies
by Tsering Yangzom Lama

Genre: historical fiction

‘For readers of Pachinko and We Need New Names, a compelling and profound debut novel about a Tibetan family’s journey through exile.’

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories
by Bo-Young Kim

Genre: speculative fiction

‘In this mind-expanding work of speculative fiction, available in English for the first time, one of South Korea’s most treasured writers explores the driving forces of humanity—love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence—in two pairs of thematically interconnected stories.’

Sea of Tranquility
by Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: speculative/literary fiction

‘…A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.’

A Lie Someone Told You about Yourself
by Peter Ho Davies

Genre: literary fiction

‘This spare, graceful narrative chronicles the flux of parenthood, marriage, and the day-to-day practice of loving someone. As challenging as it is vulnerable, as furious as it is tender, as touching as it is darkly comic… an unprecedented depiction of fatherhood.’

My Body
by Emily Ratajkowski

Genre: memoir

‘A deeply honest investigation of what it means to be a woman and a commodity from Emily Ratajkowski, the archetypal, multi-hyphenate celebrity of our time.’

I’m stopping at 7 as that is already very ambitious! What’s on your TBR for these coming months?

Descriptions taken from Goodreads. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Some recent posts

Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, an illuminating, brutal memoir of loss in the Deep South ★★★★½

At the beginning of her harrowing, lyrical memoir, Jesmyn Ward tells us: ‘telling this story is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But my ghosts were once people, and I cannot forget that.’ 

Through this slim book, Jesmyn humanizes these ghosts – the five dead young men, boys she grew up with in the rural South, and tells their stories. Through her thoughtful, introspective storytelling, these men are not statistics but real people with hopes and dreams – even if they were always lingering just out of reach. 

Born and raised the Mississippi coast where ‘where the dirty gray Gulf lapped desultorily at a man-made beach ringed by concrete and pine trees’, Jesmyn was no stranger to poverty, discrimination, addiction, and abandonment. Her father left the family to pursue his dreams (and other women), and her mother worked tirelessly as a housekeeper for rich white families to keep Jesmyn and her three siblings fed and clothed.

“Both of us on the cusp of adulthood, and this is how my brother and I understood what it meant to be a woman: working, dour, full of worry. What it meant to be a man: resentful, angry, wanting life to be everything but what it was.”

In a place with little hope of a better life, the men in her life turn to drink, or drugs, or crime. Jesmyn herself narrowly escapes – she attends a Christian private school, paid for by the rich white family who her mother works for. She’s the only Black girl for long periods of school, and endures constant, grinding racism. But at least the chance at an education offers her a potential route out of the cycle of poverty, the ‘cycle of futility.’ 

“This was like walking into a storm surge: a cycle of futility. Maybe he looked at those who still lived and those who’d died, and didn’t see much difference between the two; pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism, we were all dying inside.”

It’s a complex heritage, a place that may offer little in the way of economic opportunity but a lot in the way of community, and a place that pulls Jesmyn back time and time again. Amongst the relentless grind of survival, there’s freedom and friendship – even if fleeting – on hot summer nights when Jesmyn and her siblings or cousins or friends roll down the windows and drive along the coastal highway, or sit sipping warm beer in the park, listening to music turned up loud. It reminds you they were just children, forced to grow up too soon.

The novel isn’t linear, but instead weaves its way through the timeline of Jesmyn’s life and the deaths of these five young men. The structure took a little while to get used to, but really came into its own when the narratives converged for the penultimate chapter, the death of her beloved brother, Joshua. The final chapter zooms out from her personal tragedies and takes a look at the statistics – of being poor, Black, and from the rural South, of incarceration, discrimination, and the historical context into which these five men were born and died. My only quibble would be that she could have taken this further, and woven it throughout, to really drive home the pernicious and enduring effects of racism. 

Her writing is elegiac and restrained, even as she writes about events and circumstances that have caused her unending sorrow. Jesmyn writes as she is still trying to process and make sense of what happened to her. It’s engrossing and beautiful, and hard to look away from. 

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang – a deliciously dark satire on the publishing world ★★★★★

June Hayward is desperate for success as an author. She’s longing to achieve that perfect trifecta of huge commercial gains accompanied by high-profile literary prizes and a legacy on literature for generations to come.

So the sudden death of literary darling Athena Liu, leaving behind an unpublished manuscript, presents in itself an… opportunity.

June is convinced that if she were a little more ‘diverse’, rather than a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl from Philly, she’d be a lot more successful. She’s obsessed with and deeply resentful of Athena, both during her life and after her death. The manuscript Athena leaves behind tells the little-known story of the Chinese Labour Corps, the Chinese workers recruited by the British Army in the first world war. And June knows she’s hit the jackpot, and frantically begins to put her stamp on it. This might be the book to catapult her into the recognition she feels she very much deserves.

‘I’d somehow absorbed all the directness and verve of Athena’s writing. I felt, as Kayne put it, harder, better, faster, and stronger. I felt like the kind of person who now listened to Kanye.’

Her agent loves it, of course, and a bidding war ensues. Ironically, Athena’s words are stripped down to be made more palatable for the white reader: racist epithets (authentic to the deeply racist period) are removed, June slices out a chunk of characters because she can’t get the names straight, the white baddies are turned Chinese. And the audience laps it up: June hits meteoric success. She publishes under the name ‘Juniper Song’ (Song being her middle name from a hippy mother), complete with an ‘ethnically ambiguous’ author photo on the book jacket.

But the threat of someone finding out the truth about the book’s origins plagues her day and night.

It’s a biting and deliciously dark story, satirizing the publishing world in a very on-the-nose way (but that’s precisely the point). This one is definitely for the publishing nerds among us, so be prepared to tear through a lot of June reading her own Goodreads reviews and searching for her name on bookish Twitter circles. She’s an utter narcissist and can’t avert her gaze, even as she’s ripped apart on the internet and everything teeters on the brink of catastrophe.

Of course, we’re not supposed to like her. She’s brazenly discriminatory against the Chinese community as she continues to profit of the story, disparaging ‘funny-smelling’ Chinese food, moaning about Chinese elders not speaking in English, deciding she can suffer through a reading at a small-town Chinese American Social Club by imagining ‘the optics of an Instagram post of me eating catered Chinese food, surrounded by admiring Chinese fans.’ And yet, as insufferable as she is, you can’t stop invested in how her story will play out.

I sunk my teeth into this and couldn’t put it down: it’s very fast-paced and hardly drops a beat (the ending is a little nuts, but weirdly it worked?) and one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait for it to be published so I can hear the rest of the commentary on it (it will all be rather meta).

With thanks to HarperCollins for the advanced copy. Yellowface by R. F. Kuang will be published in May 2023.

Sharp social commentary on a city in flux – Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley ★★★★

Mozley’s London is sprawling, humming, in constant flux – and home to a cast list of of down-and-out addicts, property developers, villainous heiresses, aspiring actors, ex-hitmen…It’s a melting pot in the true sense of the word. And the focus around which this multi-layered plot spins is one crumbling townhouse in Soho, on the cusp of being snatched up into rampant capitalist clutches and converted into luxury flats and whatever else: a ‘blank slate’ for the centuries-old building.

The townhouse is home to a brothel, and the sex workers won’t go quietly. Precious and Tabitha have been there for decades, and it provides a safe space for them to work – a far cry from the horror stories of the girls on the streets. They’re drawn with compassion and insight, and were my favourite characters in this populous novel. They’re entangled with many other individuals – by way of geographical proximity or chance or both – but the nemesis here is the cool and calculating Agatha, daughter of a long-deceased billionaire gangster who is set to inherit his vast property fortune, much of which is in Soho. And she’s willing to do so through legal and not-so-legal means (without getting her own hands dirty, of course).

And while property is the hottest commodity, London itself exists as a Dickensian-esque character in its own right, a place where ‘night… is brighter than the day. The spread of muddy phosphor illuminates dark corners. The emphasis of shapes that sunshine melts. The drawn, bending, sonorous beams of buses loping from stop to stop.’ Where history is layered upon history, a place simultaneously ancient and modern. Having spent several very happy years in London, I loved the way Mozley captures the spirit of city, the rich tapestry of metropolitan life in all its grubbiness and glory.

‘The stone came. Bricks and mortar replaced trees; people replaced deer; sticky gray grime replaced sticky brown dirt. Paths carved by the tread of animals were set in stone, widened, edged with walls and gates. Mansions were built for high society. There was dancing, gambling, sex. Music was played and plays were staged. Bargains were struck, sedition was plotted, betrayals were planned, secrets were kept.’

It might hit you over the head with its social commentary, but you can’t really argue with it. While I would have loved for a bit more depth to some of the characters (though I do doubt there are many redeeming qualities in Agatha, she was quite the cartoonish villain), the astute way Mozley writes character made each person feel distinct, even in a long and sometimes unwieldy cast list. There’s a lot to unpack here – gentrification being the obvious, but also autonomy and identity and class, and how to survive (and thrive) in a city where unfettered capitalism is pushing the marginalised even further to the margins.

The short chapters propel you through the plot and the prose is rich while still being accessible. It’s hugely entertaining and also sharp, witty, and very readable.

Rating: 4 out of 5.