November Book of the Month

Leye Adenle reviews Vauxhall, by Gabriel Gbadamosi

There are experiences we will never have. I’ll never know what it is to be a woman, say, or the first man on the moon. And before Gabriel Gbadamosi’s debut novel, Vauxhall, I did not know what it means to grow up as a mixed race child in 1970s London.

This is the power of Vauxhall, narrated by 10 year old Nigerian-Irish Michael as he encounters life, himself, and learns about the colour of his skin and the slum that is his postcode. This is not voyeurism; you are not gazing upon his life. You are him. You feel the sting of the cut, the taste of the Black Jack, the shame of crapping in your pants in school.

This is not a traditional story. There is no beginning, middle, and end. No cliff-hangers. No gripping drama other than the reality of a 10 year olds naiveté as the drama of real life happens to him, around him, and to strangers who look at him just long enough to become part of his life. Where he misses the racist slur, you feel offended for him. Where he senses his parents’ depression, you feel it too. When he begins to get into trouble, like his brothers, you wish a better life for him.

The clean, lean, poetic prose of the novel achieves this hyper-realty quality through honesty. The voice is that of a boy, growing up, and you sense him growing as the story progresses.

Gabriel Gbadamosi is a poet and a playwright, and his debut novel is poetry; beautiful and accurate, and stays with you long after the last line.

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