Title: Who They Was
Author: Gabriel Krauze
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: 4th Estate
Synopsis: This is a story of London you won’t find in any guide books. This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys to eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way. This is a story of redemptions made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost. This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police custody and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal. This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fears and the hopes. This is about what’s left behind.
I’ve never read a book like this. How often do we get to say this as a book blogger? But I can honestly say I never have. It’s one of a kind. You’ll never read another book like this.
It’s totally immersive. It’s set in South London and follows Gabriel as he is a member of gangs and violence. It does take some getting used to in the beginning, but once you do it’s absolutely fantastic. You become accustomed to the slang and the dialogue. This is what makes this book so different.
I will say this book is an uncomfortable, brutal read. And I mean that In the best way. But this definitely isn’t any easy read. And we can’t forget the Gabriel Krauze is writing this book from his own experience or things, which is incredible. It really adds another layer to this story. This book literally opens with the main character violently robbing someone, see I told you it’s brutal. But it doesn’t take anything away from this hard-hitting novel.
As the book progresses, Krauze’s story becomes more of a redemption arc, as he is encouraged to leave the life of violence and gang life behind and focus on this studies. He’s continued to study English Literature at university and the juxtaposition between the separate parts of his life is fascinating.
I just want you to read this unique book. Because it’s so different and immersive, it makes it unforgettable. I know I’ll always remember this book. It’s also just been long listed for the Booker Prize and I’d love it to be shortlisted.
Thank you to Matt at 4th Estate Books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out September 3rd (today).
Until the next review