Sadie Robinson reviews a tale of life under Maggie told through a child’s eyes
This is a story of a working class family in Dudley living under Margaret Thatcher.
It’s told by Sean, who was nine years old when she was elected in 1979.
The narrative switches between him describing events as a child and his reflections as an adult.
The characters are the book’s greatest strength. They aren’t one-dimensional. They have good and bad sides and they have contradictions.
For instance, not all workers hate Thatcher—at least not initially. Indeed the book starts with a fight between Sean’s Labour supporting granddad and his uncle, who voted for the Tories.
For all the romanticisation of working class life, some workers wanted more. They thought Thatcher could help them get it.
It’s useful to have large parts of the story told from the perspective of a child. It means life is seen in a much simpler way.
As the young Sean wonders at one point, “If Margaret Thatcher is causing us all such a problem, why doesn’t someone shoot her?”
There’s a revolutionary in the book, Sean’s uncle Johnny. His explanations about what a revolution would mean and why it’s necessary make perfect sense to Sean.
The book is often a painful read because Cartwright conjures up a way of life that has gone. He makes you feel nostalgic. But he clearly wants to say that Thatcher didn’t destroy our class completely.
As Sean puts it, “The world I grew up in has gone, transformed, but there are traces that remain.”
I expected more to the plot. And the book ends on such a bitter note that it leaves you feeling powerless. But overall it’s a well-written tale of what it was like growing up under Thatcher.
Anthony Cartwright’s How I Killed Margaret Thatcher is published by Tindal Street Press next month. Go to www.tindalstreet.co.uk