THE PLOT: Broadwater by Jac Shreeves-Lee is a collection of interconnected short stories set on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham. An area with a lot of black residents, Broadwater is often stereotyped as ‘rough’. The IRL community is mostly known for the London riots in 1985 and 2011, the latter of which started after the police killed an unarmed black man. However, through these fictional stories, Shreeves-Lee brings life, humanity and compassion to the residents who live there.
RATING: There is so much heart and beauty in this book, I had to give it four and a half stars. Shreeves-Lee is an accomplished storyteller and manages to draw in her readers through the detailed description of each story’s setting. However, it’s varied the characters which grabbed me the most. From an old woman in a care home to a middle-aged couple coping with the loss of their child, and a teenager forced to grow up too fast, each character is well-rounded and burrows themselves in your mind.
GOOD BITS: Surprisingly, my favourite stories had older protagonists. There’s something really poignant about how the author depicts ageing in various forms. From seeking emotional connection later in life (Gladys Pringle in Michelle’s story) to moving to a care home (Olivia’s story), or being taken care of by your children (Hilda in Cupcake’s story), I found these narratives completely compelling. It feels like the author is making a statement about change, whether that’s change of a person or location/area or relationship.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: It’s a minor point but it seemed like some connections between stories had been plonked in. For example, there are a few instances where the name of a previous character is mentioned but they have no bearing on the plot. I also felt the voice of Ricky in the final story was a bit too forced. He was too good a character, which allowed him to be a beacon of hope for the future of the estate, but lost the magic of the emotional, raw, flawed characters present in the other stories.
OVERALL: I really, really, really think you should buy this book. It’s depicts a new and different side of London, which rarely gets told. It’s not a hugely, plot driven banger of a book, but I liked how it is quiet, thoughtful, yet you still become invested in the characters. If you liked Maxine Beneba-Clarke’s ‘Foreign Soil’, or are drooling over ‘Love In Colour’ by Bolu Babalola, I think ‘Broadwater’ is a short story collection for you.