Release Date: 6 May 2021 (received as advance read copy*)
Publisher: Granta Publications
Star rating: 🌟🌟🌟
In a story that centres around one single plot of land, surrounded on all sides by the ever expanding skyscraper skyline of Bangkok, a myriad of characters’ lives are unfolding. As their lives overlap, their stories intertwine and untold secrets are revealed, each of them will be changed. Even the land itself will be never be the same again. Who will be left on the other side and what will life look like for them?
This is a book with a diverse and interesting set of characters, each with their own quirks and histories that add to the novel. The setting is vividly realised and there are some brilliant moments where I felt rooted in the locations, particularly Comrade Aeon’s hut. To some extent, I think I wanted more from the characters though. There were so many, there wasn’t enough room here I don’t think to fully explore the complexity of who they were, and so at times they slipped into a little more two dimensional frames. That’s not to say they’re not well written – I felt I was able to visualise who these people were and what their wants were – but I could have done with an extra few hundred pages to get to know them better.
And I think that’s true of how I felt about the novel as a whole. I wanted more, I think, from the story. I had a sense quite early on where the story was going (and that’s not me being clever, it’s quite clear in the text I think) and so I was, in some ways, disappointed that what I thought was going to happen did indeed happen. I wanted something to twist, a different way of the story unfolding, I think. It’s not that it was predictable – there were some endings to the characters’ stories that I didn’t expect, but the general denouement was the one I expected.
Nonetheless, I would recommend this for readers who enjoy multiple character perspectives and novels with overlapping stories. It’s a novel that is never dull and, having read the acknowledgements, is rooted in wanting to tell a story that needs to be told – something I’m always on board with.
Books in Steel City x
*Thanks NetGalley and Granta Publications for allowing me free access to this advance read copy in exchange for an honest review!