Sunday, April 22, 2007


A nicely pitched moment of joy among the horrors of Nicola Monaghan's tale of drugs and suffocated lives on a Nottingham estate, The Killing Jar, made better by a bathetic conclusion:

The sun rose, casting more blood and pus into the mucky air up around the clouds. I grinned my head off. It were beautiful, I knew that. I was at least using the word proper then. Jon was gorgeous, lit by the yellows and reds and what was left of the moon. We laid there, and birds started to sing, and we could see the grass was green again, and that our jeans were blue, not black. I hadn't noticed before that instant that everything was black and grey and mud brown at night, even once your eyes got used to the dark and you could see.

'Happiness is cheap in the East Midlands, Kez, me duck,' said Jon. I looked up and saw the sun, a broken yolk in the egg-white sky. He was right. Two quid wholesale, them pills'd cost us, and here we were laying on the grass and in love with the light.

I was eighteen years old and I was invincible. That morning everything was amazing. The light, my brother, everything. Ecstasy does exactly what it says on the packet.

[The Killing Jar, by Nicola Monaghan, 2006. The education of a heroin addict's daughter, with enough shocks to fill two misery memoirs and make a talkshow from the leftovers; drug-dealing in the playground aged ten is towards the nicer end of the spectrum. It is lifted from mundane sensationalism by the precision with which it recreates its setting (Broxtowe estate, 1980s and early 90s, with outings to Skegness and the clubs of Hockley) and the voice of its narrator. Kerrie-Ann Hill speaks in a Nottingham dialect that has the music right as well as the words, presents her experiences coolly, as nothing that out of the ordinary, and goes nowhere near self-pity; characters who look on her as a victim, manipulated or available for manipulation, have a low survival rate. Clever observational writing shores up the impression of her as someone sharp enough to survive in dangerous circumstances, and buys credibility for more flowery passages like the one quoted.]

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