Kate Tempest writes plays, novels and poetry. The latter shows in The Bricks. Choice of words, rhythm, length of sentences, variation: it all works out very well. It results in a novel that convinces both on content, style and structure. The rough world the main characters dwell in, is re-inforced with vibrant imagery and almost raplike enumerations. These are effortlessly interchanged with introvert phrases that reflect the hopelessness and near-desperation of the main characters. The world Tempest introduces her readers to is completely alien to me: I did not grow up in a South-London housing estate, I was never tempted to earn a living selling drugs in the City and at parties, as is the case for main character Harry: she is very fond of her poverty-stricken neighbourhood and is determined to start a pub aka community centre there with the proceeds of her trade. Harry knows what she wants and goes for it. One wonders what she might have accomplished if she had been as determined at school. Her brother Pete and his girlfriend Becky demonstrate that an education is no guarantee however. Pete finished college, but never succeeded in getting a suitable job, he goes from temporary job to temporary job; Becky was top of the class but did not succeed in succoring the much wanted position in a modern dance company. Earning a living working in her uncle’s cafe and as an erotic masseuse her earnest efforts at dance direction do gain her a growing credit in the world of modern ballet. Pete on the other hand has given up, he even begrudges Becky her few successes. Tempest goes back into the childhoods of Harry, Pete and Becky, in this way stating that the transformation from dime to quarter depends for an important part on the person trying to make the transition. The transition of the housing estate to modern, trendy place to be subtly illustrates chances coming along and being taken.
Tempest starts off The Bricks at a determining moment and then steps back in time. We are being led back to this moment and finally learn what has happened at the start of the novel. And then things go wrong. It is as if Tempest has become hasty and dashes off the story. She might have bungled of at purpose however: all ambition has been deserted, all the hassle has ended and everyone, more or less resigned, picks up their lives. The ending of the novel unfortunately parallels life, resulting in me finishing The Bricks slightly disappointed. I would have loved for Tempest to keep up the power works until the very end. I grew to care for Harry, I was pleasantly surprised with this stunning novel about the shady side of life.