Reading history and reviews
Finished on 11th June 2009My friend Steve lent me this for my rail journey back from his place at the start of March, but in the event I didn't actually read it until now (he's coming over next week and I wanted to give it back to him).
This is Marina Lewycka's second novel and tells the story of a group of foreign workers (predomninantly from Eastern Europe) and a dog, adrift in the shadowly British sub-minimum-wage legal-and-not-so-legal labour market (the book is dedicated to the Chinese cockle pickers who drowned in Morecombe Bay in 2004). The characters start out picking strawberries but through various accidents and twists we see them exposed to gangsterism, battery chicken farming, restaurant work and prostitution as they struggle towards their individual aspirations.
It's a very readable book and the Lewycka's characters are very engaging. There are some memorable incidents and I imagine that many of them do accurately reflect the grimness of the world the characters find themselves in. In fact it feels like often Lewycka pulls her punches, either by rendering horrific situations comical - such as the battery chicken farm - or by simply not showing the final fate of characters that we infer have been sold into the sex trade. The plotting also felt a little uneven as ultimately most of the characters fall away and to leave us with the hero and heroine and a happy ending, of sorts, which perhaps was a little unearned.
Aside from all these criticisms though I did enjoy the book and felt also I'd got a very slight insight into the unpleasant reality of living on these fringes of society. Definitley worth a read.