Item description for Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle...
Set against the backdrop of the Brixton race riots in London in the 1980s, this novel tells a story of overcoming obstacles from a teen's perspective. Brenton Brown, a 16-year-old mixed-race youth, has lived in a children's home all his life and is haunted by the absence of his mother. Complications arise, however,when he finally meets his mother and then falls dangerously in love with his half-sister. Killer Terry Flynn also scars Brenton's life and leaves him wanting revenge. Through it all, this determined teen is driven to pursue education and recognize his true self in the midst of chaos.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.56" Width: 5.04" Height: 0.63" Weight: 0.57 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2007
Publisher Arcadia Books
ISBN 1901969150 ISBN13 9781901969153
Availability 0 units.
More About Alex Wheatle
Alex Wheatle, was born in South London. He is currently working with Book Trust to introduce literature to the dispossessed. He organises and holds workshops in prisons and young adult institutions.
Alex Wheatle currently resides in London. Alex Wheatle was born in 1963.
Reviews - What do customers think about Brixton Rock?
Plods Along to Inevitable End May 28, 2005
Contrary to reviews, this book is neither "explosive", nor "very funny", nor " energetic", nor " witty", nor "heartwarming", nor "a real page turner." Rather, it is a fairly plodding story about a troubled teenage boy trying to find his way into adulthood, with little to recommend it. The setting is (as one might guess from the title) South London circa 1980, and Brenton is a mixed-race 17-year-old living in a hostel for those coming out of social care. He was abandoned by his mother and father and grew up in a series of awful orphanages, leading to considerable inner turmoil.
The story follows Brenton as he mopes around, bumming cigarettes, cashing his giro, listening to tunes, smoking herb, and generally being mad at the world. Following an incident in which Brenton is knifed quite badly by a neighborhood guy whom he has a beef with, a social worker tracks down his mother and reintroduces him. This attempt to bring some measure of love and psychological comfort to his life has the unfortunate side-effect of also bringing his beautiful half-sister into his life. And let's just say that the familial love he was seeking comes in a rather taboo form... Indeed, I don't think I've ever come across a piece of literature or film that treats incest so off-handedly. It's treated as little more than a particularly vexing impediment to love, a sort of uber Romeo and Juliet situation. Very strange.
Things end pretty much as one might expect, as Brenton takes baby steps to self-improvement, only to have society push him back. The title appears to be a play on the well-known (and overrated in my mind) early Graham Greene novel Brighton Rock. Both feature troubled 17-year old males, but whereas Brighton Rock's Pinkie is a sociopath and real gangster, Brenton is merely a confused boy posing as a man. His story is not particularly interesting or compelling, and the writing is so simple I kept thinking it was a book intended for children. However, if you've never been exposed to Jamaican patois, it's not a bad introduction. The dialogue is littered with terms like bredren, iretion, suitcase, beast, spar, batty, seen, ram, mash up, and the like. (If you don't know what these mean, you may need to read the book next to a computer with an internet Jamaican/English dictionary on screen.)
Wheatle does do a decent job of capturing the vibe of the times, as racist cops harass black kids, sound systems clash at all-night discos, and there's a lot of tension on the street. Brenton's forever popping the roots music in the suitcase and people like Denis Brown, Barrington Levy, and Johnny Osbourne all get namechecked frequently, with chapter titles riffing on song titles and lyrics of the day. Ultimately, however, as a portrait of multicultural London, it's all surface and no depth. One might be better off reading other fiction, such as Colin MacInnes' City of Spades (about the first wave of Caribbean immigrants), or Victor Headley's Yardie (basically "Scarface" in early '90s Jamaican London), or even Zadie Smith's White Teeth (which I grudgingly have to admit is pretty good).
PS. Two peripheral characters from this book (Biscuit and Coffinhead) are the protagonists of Wheatle's next book, East of Acre Lane, set in the same time and place.