IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY
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BY GUY GUNARATNE
How can anyone born into an elsewhere (in their blood) feel truly at home in any one place, especially when their narrative has been one of migration?
Hatred escalates whilst harmony amongst friends and family dissolves in this powerful and persuasive debut novel by Guy Gunaratne. 'In Our Mad and Furious City' is set over a troubled 48 hours on a North London estate following the unexpected murder, by a fundamentalist, of an off duty British soldier - reminiscent of the 2013 Lee Rigby murder. Told through the eyes of five individuals of differing backgrounds, Gunaratne sets out to show us the rhythms and workings of a London estate at a time of extreme tension.
The elder generation is represented by Caroline, who resorts to drink and isolation, as she can’t escape her past growing up in Belfast during the IRA Troubles. Then there is Nelson who came to London for a better life as part of the “Windrush generation”, trapped in a wheelchair and unable to communicate, but lovingly pushed around by his devoted wife Maisie. The younger generation’s voice comes through three young men: Nelson’s son, Selvon, finds solace by running and like his father dreams of escaping, in search of a better life; Caroline’s son Ardan seeks refuge through his love of grime and is himself a natural rapper: and finally Yusuf, the son of Pakistani immigrants, is struggling to cope with the extremist views being spread at his mosque, which has intensified since the death of his beloved father who had himself been the local Imam.
This may all sound rather depressing, but Gunaratne gives all these characters a unique voice of hope and determination as they try to break free from the confines of their surroundings which offer limited opportunities. As they come together to play football, gather at the boxing ring and perform their grime at a recording studio, so we appreciate its community spirit and within this the friendships and bonds. As the tension in this 'mad and furious' setting rises into rioting, the inevitable prevails as the three young men take to the streets.
The author's overall message is simple and important - to work together to create a sustainable and inclusive society that accepts and respects the individual and their backgrounds, traditions and cultures.The Den found lots of talking points around the plight of the characters and there was plenty of discussion of 'if and how' a better society could be created. Deep food for thought in the Den!
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