From The Archive: The Street by Kay Brellend (5/5)

Tuesday 6 May 2014
Read and Reviewed April 2013

'Campbell Road was home to the most notorious criminals: thieves, prostitutes, fraudsters -- every sort of rogue and vagabond drifted through this slum.' Life was tough ! but so were they Alice Keiver is a sensitive girl, growing up in one of the roughest parts of North London. As the daughter of an alcoholic mother, and niece of an abusive uncle, she dreams that one day she and her baby sister will escape their rotten surroundings. Alice's father, Jack Keiver, works day and night to provide for his family. But his hopes for a better life are dashed each time he returns home to find the money-jar raided and his feisty wife Tilly collapsed drunk in the corner. In the room below, Alice's downtrodden Aunt Fran spends most of her days nursing the injuries inflicted on her by her cruel husband Jimmy -- but this time he's pushed the family too far and they're not going to let him get away with it. Revenge is going to be sweet.

A few things drew me to this book and made me move it to the top of my to read list. The setting, Campbell Road - one of the worst streets to live on in North London. It reminded me of a show on the BBC a while back about the streets of London and how they had changed over time. I have always been fascinated with history, and of streets and places in particular. I love looking at pictures of my own city many years ago, however there were plenty of slums around where I live that were part of a slum clearance many years ago and I also enjoy (for want of a better word) looking at these pictures too. It reminds you that however bad you think things are, this kind of living is surely a thing of the past.

This book is fiction, but contains elements of real life as it is loosely based on the author's recollection of her family who grew up in the area and lived on Campbell Road. There is an Author's Note at the back of the book and also some pictures including Campbell Road and pictures of men and women who were the inspiration for the characters of this book. Note however that I don't think these pictures appear in the Kindle edition having read some reviews of said edition elsewhere. I also feel that the author's note and pictures would have been better placed at the start of the book rather than the end. There is also a lovely epilogue at the end set in 1987 which I assume is a tribute of sorts to her family.

The book contains a fantastic cast of characters, all of whom are very well written and really believable. However there are times when you read dialogue or read about something happening to a character and remember that some of them are children. Characters as young as 14 are talking about going out and trying to find full time work to support their families. And families are living crammed into rooms in a house that they have to share with the rest of the family. It is unbelievable to imagine living like this. The characters all feel very real and you really root for them throughout the book. They are also willing to go to war for a country that doesn't care about them or want to help them.

I don't know what genre this book is but it is sort of similar to family saga books by the likes of Annie Groves etc however I find that those kinds of books, whilst touching on hard subjects, often end up being all lovey dovey. This book certainly isn't that however there are romantic elements but it is mostly about the hardships of living in an area like Campbell Road.

However it is also about people pulling together. The people around Campbell Road looked down on the residents and wouldn't give them jobs if they were from the area. They wouldn't even want people from 'The Bunk' walking down their streets. But on the streets the neighbours (most of them) are friends and look out for one another and it is nice to feel the sense of camaraderie despite the terrible lives these people are living.

Overall this was a fantastic book that I cannot reccommend enough. I came across this book when I saw Kay's latest book for sale in a supermarket however reading the blurb made me see that her latest book is a continuation of sorts featuring the Keiver family so I intend to continue with the series before picking up the latest one.

Buy this book from Amazon

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