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Ridley Road by Jo Bloom

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Publisher: W&N
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of Maggie O'Farrell and Sadie Jones, amid the rise of fascism in sixties London, one woman searches for her lost love . . . Summer, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. But the only address she has for him leads to a dead end. Determined to make a new life for herself, Vivien convinces Barb, the owner of Oscar's hair salon in Soho, to give her a job. There, she is swept into the colourful world of the sixties - the music and the fashions, the coffee bars and clubs. But still, Vivien cannot forget Jack. As she continues to look for him, her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. Then one day Vivien finally spots Jack, but her joy is short-lived when she discovers his secret . .
I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly by the title - Ridley Market reminds me of my childhood. Secondly the cover is lovely. Finally, the time period and the Jewish aspect. On the whole, I liked Ridley Road. It was comforting in the way of a Sunday night drama on ITV. The blurb says it is for fans of Maggie O'Farrell and I would agree. 

With regards to the characters, Vivien started off really strong. In fact, the beginning of the story in itself is very strong. She was intriguing and I was looking forward to her journey. However, she kind of became a background character in, what I believed to be, her own story, which was a shame. On the other hand, Jack wasn't much of a character but his story was interesting. This is where I encountered my only real issue with Ridley Road. I think wished the story was focused on one thing or the other - either a girl moving to London who, whilst getting used to all the glitz and glamour, meets a man from the shadows OR a man dealing with life as part of a fascist group. Full stop. Personally, I would read both - especially the latter as some of the scenes with Jack at the HQ were really great. 

There were quite a few supporting characters, who we might've gotten to know more about if the story had been one or the other. Either way, they were all likeable in their own way - even mixed up Stevie. Oh, and I definitely wanted to know more about Vivien's land lady for some reason - I liked her a lot. 

Before reading Ridley Road, I didn't know anything about the anti-Jewish activities in 1960's East London. Due to my background, I know about the racism but nothing about the Jewish story, so I found that part of the book really interesting. I'll have to look up some of the sources listed by Jo Bloom at some point. 

Still, overall, Ridley Road is a nice read. My commute is long and boring, so I don't have much patience for books that don't particularly grab me these days, however I quite looked forward to catching up with story each morning and I finished the book, which isn't something I have been doing a lot recently.

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