ANOTHER KIND OF CONCRETE BY KOUSHIK BANERJEA
PAPERBACK PUBLISHED BY JACARANDA 27th February 2020
The Three R’s: routemasters, reading, rioting.
Intoning this mantra K, a bookish young boy, ducks the fare but not the issues in this darkly comic coming-of-age tale largely unfolding in a city and a era where everything culture, people,even the local architecture, appears to be in open revolt.
It’s 1977 and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and, along with the pomp, it’s punk that’s in full swing. South of the river, the polyester-clad natives are in uproar. They don’t like the kids with colourful streaks in their hair, and they most certainly don’t like the ones with colour in their skin. K is one of those kids, marooned with his family in a sea of hostility. His parents, are both refugees, view that as a small price to pay for starting over after the mayhem of Indian Partition. When threats are made and bricks start to fly, long-buried demons of the past resurface. And as summer wears on, unresolved issues culminate in a grim local dance of law and disorder.
If England was dreaming, it’s wide awake now. Festooned with streamers and safety pins, while in its shadows something primal has begun to stir. London in its extremis. Just below the surface, and sometimes not even that far, Anither Kind of Concrete.
This book brought back my memories of when I used to stay with my Nan during the school holidays in London. My nan often took me to Lewisham shopping, where the heart of this story takes place.
I found Koushik Banerjea writing easy to follow and I believed in things happened, the author also managed to bring back my childhood memories of being on a bus in London in Lewisham.
My favourite character was a Indian young boy that was named as simply k, who was a well spoken English school boy. K liked to dodge his bus fair on the way home from school in Lewisham. He knew the Indian conductor’s name as Vic, that he thought was rather an odd name for an Indian bus driver, as his aunts and uncles were Kakas or Kakimas. While K is the last school boy on the bus a crazy riot the bus comes under fire with eggs thrown at the bus windows, but K isn’t afraid.
K’s uncle lives in his family home who I think it’s really a bit jealous of his nephew as he thinks K is annoying with his good English thinking K is too much of a perfectionist with his nouns and pronouns. It brought tears to my eyes as uncle has hit him, but K never told anyone, not even his little black girl friend Michelle, who K loved playing with her hair braids in the quietness of the school library.
It just goes to show you can never judge a book by its cover as set within in this story the sentence often comes up another kind of concrete, and that’s why on the front cover is a picture of concrete. Another Kind of Concrete is a beautiful literary fiction tale that has blended coming-of-age, love, and in my own view jealously, and with the rage of rioting.
Koushik Banerjea was born in London, where he still lives. After graduating from Warwick University, where he studied Spanish and International Studies, he trained with the BBC as a journalist before going on to work as a feature writer for the cult journal, 2nd Generation magazine. From the late 1990s, for almost a decade, he deejayed as one half of ‘The Shirley Crabtree Experience’. In 2000, he survived the Hatfield train crash. At this time, he was employed as a youth worker specializing in issues of social inclusion while also studying for a Ph.D. He was awarded a doctorate in sociology from London South Bank University in 2009 and subsequently taught postcolonial theory at the London School of Economics.
His short fiction has been published in ‘The Good Journal’ and in ‘Shots in the Dark’, a Cultureword collection of crime stories. He has also been published in the 2018 Writers Resist Anthology (Running Wild Press), and in the online literary journal, ‘Minor Literatures’, as well as in ‘Verbal’ (London Books), to which he has been a regular contributor since 2016. Another Kind of Concrete is his debut novel.