#BlogTour #BookReview Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings by Tony Fairweather @RandomTTours

Twenty Eight Pounds BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings by Tony Fairweather. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to HopeRoad Publishing for my digital review copy. Do check out the Instagram post by my tour buddy for today, Lisa at numberslady_reads.

Twenty Eight Pounds Final CoverAbout the Book

It is 1948, and post-war Britain is on her knees. The call has gone out to the British Empire for volunteers to help rebuild the ‘Mother Country,’ and young men and women from across the Caribbean have been quick to respond, paying the considerable sum of £28 10s to board HMT Empire Windrush – the ‘ship of dreams’ that will take them to their new lives.

Meet Mavis, a 22-year-old Trinidadian nurse who just wants to see the world. Chef, the best cook on the island, desperate to get to London and his wounded soldier son. Norma, who wants to teach the British how to teach, and her funny best friend Lucretia, who is sure that every man wants her, and that English food is very… English.

Their epic journey took two weeks, but for some it was a lifetime. Friendships were made and broken. There were love affairs and fights; dancing and dominoes; gambling and racism. Many of the young people on board that ship had never left their parents or their parishes, let alone their islands. Their lives would never be the same again.

Format: Hardback (320 pages)      Publisher: HopeRoad Publishing
Publication date: 26th May 2022  Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Set largely aboard the HMT Empire Windrush, what the book does particularly well is demonstrate that those who travelled from the Caribbean were not a homogenous group. They come from different islands each of which have their own unique culture. The passengers also have a variety of reasons for deciding to travel to England. For some it’s out of necessity or to be reunited with family. For others it’s a desire for a new life or a way to make some money before returning home. Many of the passengers are – rightly, as it turns out – wary of the reaction that will greet them upon their arrival in England.

Although the Second World War is over, its legacy is still felt. For example, amongst the passengers is a group of recently demobbed West Indian soldiers who feel their contribution to the war effort has been overlooked, even belittled by the authorities and by the British soldiers they fought alongside. The most stark reminder of the longlasting impact of war is the character of Mickey.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of and I found myself having to create a list of who was who, who was travelling with whom and, latterly, who was pairing up with whom. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the frequent switching between different characters within a single chapter (with no identifiable breaks, at least in my digital copy). At times this became rather confusing. Longer sections from the point of view of a smaller number of characters would have made me feel I’d got to know them better. Having said that, my favourite characters were probably Mavis and Chef, along with the Captain of the HMT Empire Windrush who we discover has reasons of his own to fear discrimination.

Much of the dialogue is rendered in the patois of Jamaica and Trinidad, and although this gives a wonderful sense of authenticity I occasionally found myself having to reread a sentence. There is however a useful glossary at the end of the book. For those who are sensitive to such things, there is frequent use of strong language and some descriptions of sexual intimacy.

I enjoyed the moments of humour in the book, such as the Caribbean passengers’ univerally negative opinion of the food served up by the British chefs. Given most of the passengers are young, there’s plenty of dancing, drinking and eyeing up of the opposite sex. There are moments of melodrama and some serious topics are covered ranging from racist abuse to sexual assault and even murder.

I would liken Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings to a Caribbean cocktail, perhaps a rum punch.  It has some fruity elements, an authentic flavour and a generous slug of stronger stuff.

In three words: Authentic, dramatic, characterful

Try something similar: The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

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Tony Fairweather Author PicAbout the Author

Tony Fairweather was born in Clapham, the son of Jamaican parents. He opened one of the first Black bookshops in the UK, before going on to work for the Voice newspaper, where he managed the Voice
book club. In 1989, Tony founded ‘The Write Thing’, an events company established to promote Black authors, which led to his working with a veritable who’s who of the Black literary world, including Bernardine Evaristo, Dr Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, and many more. Tony is also the founder and curator of the Windrush Collection, a touring exhibition of artefacts associated with the Windrush generation. He lives in South London.

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#BlogTour #BookReview The White Girl by Tony Birch @RandomTTours

The White Girl BT PosterWelcome to the penultimate day of the blog tour for The White Girl by Tony Birch. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to HarperCollins for my digital review copy.  Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, bookstagrammer Atomic Books 1976.

The White Girl CoverAbout the Book

Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane – secrets that could explain why Odette’s daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when
her family is Aboriginal.

For thirteen years, Odette has quietly raised her granddaughter without drawing notice from welfare authorities who remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. But the arrival of a new policeman with cruel eyes and a rigid by-the-book attitude throws the Brown women’s lives off-kilter. It will take all of Odette’s courage and cunning to save Sissy from the authorities, and maybe even lead her to find her daughter.

Bolstered by love, smarts, and the strength of their ancestors, Odette and Sissy are an indomitable
force, handling threats to their family and their own identities with grace and ingenuity, while never
losing hope for themselves and their future.

Format: Paperback (272 pages)    Publisher: HarperVia
Publication date: 28th April 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The White Girl is the first book I’ve read by Tony Birch, an author I had never come across before being invited to participate in this blog tour. However on the strength of this book I’ll definitely be searching out more of his work.

“Trouble? Our people have been in one sort of trouble or another from the first day we set eyes on a white person.” 

I knew vaguely about the discrimination faced by the indigenous people of Australia but the experiences of Odette and her granddaughter gave me a first-hand insight into the daily realities of their lives: enforced segregation, the separation of families, restrictions on freedom of movement and the withholding of the right to citizenship. I found it shocking to think that the sort of discrimination one might associate with the period before the abolition of slavery could still be taking place in Australia in the 1960s.

Alongside the state-sponsored discrimination, Odette and fellow Aboriginal people are subject to racial abuse and threats of violence meaning they need to exercise caution about where they go or what they say, all the time on their guard in case they breach the petty rules governing their lives. Such an environment acts as a kind of shield for those with violent and racist inclinations.

The despicable attitude towards Aboriginal people is exemplified in the character of Sergeant Lowe whose warped sense of superiority (reinforced by the legal framework of the ironically named Aborigines Protection Act) convinces him he has a duty to ‘protect’ the children of indigenous families. ‘He would begin with auditing each of the Aboriginal children under his guardianship with a view to deciding the best outcome for their future welfare.’ That ‘welfare’ includes removing children from their families and placing them in institutions.

Odette is the most wonderful character who demonstrates amazing fortitude and a willingness to put the interests of her granddaughter, Sissy, before her own.  The relationship between Odette and Sissy is lovely too, with Sissy showing an increasing maturity as the book progresses and that she has inherited the sharp wits of her grandmother. I also loved Odette’s friend, Millie Khan, one of the few people who has the courage to confront Lowe. ‘Oh, you’ve looked after the welfare of our young girls for a long time now. Most of them are dead, disappeared or were sent mad by what you did to them in the institutions.’

In the book’s poignant epilogue, we learn just what Odette’s love and determination has achieved but also the tragic consequences of the discrimination meted out to the indigenous people of Australia.

The White Girl is a beautifully written and absolutely enthralling story of unconditional love and courage in the face of adversity.

In three words: Powerful, moving, poignant

Try something similar: A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey

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Tony Birch Author PicAbout the Author

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin literary prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and four short story collections, Dark As Last Night, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People; and the poetry collections, Broken Teeth and Whisper Songs. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist.

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