British Political Humour. Frank reviews Red Leicester Blues by @CunliffeRich, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Red Leicester Blues by Richard Cunliffe

I need to prefix this review with a confession: when it comes to politics and current affairs I am a complete nerd. For as long as I can remember I have followed political events in England, especially with regard to the relationship between the UK and Europe. In the 1980s I was an activist, becoming a county councillor and, in 1989, a candidate for election to the European Parliament. Inevitably a book in which the principle protagonist is similarly energised by politics is going to appeal to me.

We first meet Billy as a five-year-old, living in a council house in Leicester with his older brother, younger sister and his parents George and Sheila. It’s 1975 and the country is about to vote in a referendum to determine if the UK should remain a member of the EEC. We then leap forward to 2016 and Billy’s older self, Will. The electorate has just voted, by the narrowest of margins, to leave the EU. The rest of the book alternates between Billy’s childhood, adolescence and early adulthood and Will’s life as a business man and parent up to the end of 2020. Each episode in his life is linked to a key moment in British politics.

Billy’s father and his friends are Labour Party supporters, members of their trade union; Will’s business partner is a committed advocate of ‘Leave’ whilst Will is a ‘Remainer’. So there is plenty of opportunity for political debate throughout his life.

For those of you for whom politics and Brexit are a turn off, you can rest assured that Billy/Will’s life contains much more. The story explores his father’s drunkenness, especially after his mother’s death from cancer; his brother’s descent into violent criminality; his failed marriage and his doubts about his performance as a father. Each of these characters, and several others, are well drawn, fully rounded individuals who develop throughout the 45 year span of the story.

Billy/Will has an ear for language. Not only is this important for his career as an advertising copy writer, but it provides an opportunity for the author to display his own identical talent. The book is well worth reading just for that aspect.

Billy suffers from a mild form of OCD. A minor character introduces him to the techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a way of dealing with it.

The women in his life – mother, sister, ex-wife, PA, daughter, business partner’s girlfriend – are all well drawn, despite his ineptitude when it comes to male-female relationships.

Domestic dramas and romantic interludes are realistically portrayed without over dramatisation. So are business relationships. It is altogether a superb evocation of the lives of English people, residing in a provincial city, during a period of enormous political and technological change.

Personally I would have preferred to see more attention given to the fact of the existence of a ‘third force’ in 1980s politics and the way in which that, combined with the UK’s peculiar electoral system, helped the Conservatives to secure repeated success in general elections, as well as inspiring Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to modernise the Labour Party.

That notwithstanding, I can earnestly recommend it, whether or not you care about politics or

Brexit. Definitely worthy of five stars.

Desc 1

It’s the 1970s in Leicester, and New Parks kid Billy Prendergast is, at face value, a pretty regular five-year-old. He has a bullying elder brother, a pesky younger sister, and an interest in Doctor Who bordering on the obsessive. But other aspects of Billy’s life aren’t so commonplace. His keen and precocious interest in politics is totally unexpected from one so young, and his enthusiasm for Margaret Thatcher, in particular, appears very unlikely in a Labour-voting household.

Forty years later, Billy remains both a fan of Doctor Who and an advocate of right-wing politics. He also happens to have made a small fortune building a successful, Leicester-based advertising business. But cleverness and money aren’t getting him a date with the woman he adores, and nor are they likely to help when Billy’s brother Keith is released from prison with vengeance on his mind.

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5 thoughts on “British Political Humour. Frank reviews Red Leicester Blues by @CunliffeRich, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

  1. Nice review, Frank. I wish I knew more about British politics, I try to stay a bit involved, but it’s hard enough to follow US politics!

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