There were times when I spent my evening browsing spoken word performances, but I’ve never heard of Kate Tempest – that said, I consider it as my fault. But when I saw a recently published book about contemporary London (yes!) and its people, trying to find their way through the life, while getting lost and connected by coincidence or consequence, I knew I must read it. So I did and let me tell you: although The Bricks That Built The Houses is Kate’s debut novel, for me it is one of the best books of this year. I’m really looking forward to follow her creative progress.
As Kate herself puts it “Everyone looking for their tiny piece of meaning.” All her characters are dealing with finding their place in the social circles important to them. Becky is trying to fulfill her dream of becoming successful dancer, but strugglig with money she takes another side-job to have enough for herself and her recently found boyfriend Pete. Unemployed, unmotivated and bored, Pete watches people around him while being jelous of Becky without any given reason. Pete’s sister Harry is fine with money, although their source is not legal. Therefore she has another issues to take care of. Family meetings, portrayed so accurately that made me grin, show how even experienced, older adults can go through the same feelings as their younger relatives.
Since I was a youngster, I liked to read books about troubled young adults, their incredible experiences and lessons learned. Even my first book in English I read completely was about a homeless girl in the city. There is a fine line between characters in the book and the true life, described so authentically in The Bricks That Built The Houses. The layers of one’s life are so true. I don’t think I lie when I say once we know enough people and we know them properly, we find out the other dimensions of their life. Not only hard-working individuals keeping few jobs to pay the bills, but also those whose free time activities may be disturbing for the others etc. And it doesn’t need to happen only in London. These are the things I find interesting and the way Kate was able to put all stories, even connecting each other, it’s just breath taking and uncommon. I liked how she decided to leave out so repetitive anonymity of cities and let all characters meet in a natural, believable way.
The Bricks That Built The Houses is a novel, but Kate’s writing style elevates it to the combination between prose and poetry. Her sense for powerful metaphors is stunning. Some people may find it slightly odd, but for me there were moments when I needed to stop reading, just to repeat aloud few of her phrases/quotes.
There are books whose characters you think you know. This is one of them. You know the people, the city and its atmosphere, but as in real life you have no idea how it will end. The Bricks That Built The Houses is about Britain, its society, London’s spirit narrated so captivatingly, that you will not put it down.