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A Stranger City

A Stranger City

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Reviewer Jake Arnott, writing in the Guardian, describes this homage to an ever-evolving city, as being ‘. The main thread running through the book relates to the suicide of a young woman who cannot be identified and is therefore buried in a pauper's grave. There is an unease in all of the characters, a feeling that a terrible mistake has been made, that tolerance is disintegrating despite, or perhaps because of, the overconnectedness of modern life. Grant is interested in the encounters between her characters brought together through the concentrated population of the city and the time of intense change and speculation.

Wow, you have to be a bit clever these days to have a private life,” says Marco, when Pete explains that the case of the drowned woman remains unsolved partly because she was unrecognised on social media. The shocking reality, especially for an Australian reader were the ships on the Thames being used to incarcerate migrants before deportation, ‘floating concentration camps’ as we know from the 1780’s and the convict colonisation of Australia. Grant’s is a great idea for a novel, yet I found myself getting lost in the interesting but many characters and their stories. The group includes the investigating detective, recently retired, and his wife, the TV documentary maker, (who puts together a show about the woman), and his wife, the Irish nurse who briefly disappeared on the same night and was mistaken for the dead woman and her ex-flat mate, a hard-nosed, cynical young man with a chip on his shoulder.This is a dangerous London of bristling present and haunting future, in which nothing is quite as it seems and everyone has a past that may stretch tolerance or demand surveillance. A Stranger City is centred on the imagined enclave of Wall Park, below the North Circular, though readers familiar with Bowes Park, Myddleton Road and the New River will recognise the neighbourhood. A documentary film-maker who ‘links’ stories by his film about the disappeared, the missing, in London.

I felt I kept forgetting who the characters were (omg, I wish I had read this on Kindle where revisiting character info is 10x easier) and had to remind myself repeatedly of who they were and who they were related to. Instead the unidentified body provides a curious touchstone to a broad cast of characters, provoking them to confront their own sense of self, so that the “stranger” in the title oscillates between noun and comparative adjective. A Stranger City is a sinuous tale centring on a documentary about the recovery of a female body from The Thames, identity still unknown six months later. In the novel, the young woman becomes Chrissie, an Irish nurse who coincidentally goes briefly missing at the same time as the unidentified woman ends her life jumping from London Bridge, and becomes something of a calm centre connecting a disparate cast list of modern Londoners. These three characters drift in and out of the narrative in a rather fragmented way and, when the young woman's identity is eventually discovered, it happens through a very odd coincidence which I found hard to believe.The plot's seemingly haphazard quality mirrors the contingency of urban life but the way Grant makes even the minor characters flare into life gives the novel richness and depth.

The Iranian Jews, so quintessential Persian: the grandparents who never truly integrated and the granddaughter - British yet Persian deep down; the film/documentary maker; the policeman who lives and breaths London, who gets obsessed with his last case; the British-Lebanese PR guy overly concerned with his appearance who loses what's most important to him, but still manages to reinvent himself, the Irish no-nonsense nurse, the queer professor and all the other secondary character who add even more color to this world.A dead body found in the Thames is the starting point for this thoughtful and perceptive novel about identity, community, dislocation, immigration and the idea of home and belonging.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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