Faith Spinks's Reviews > Jubilee

Jubilee by Shelley Harris
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's review
Sep 21, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: recommended-to-me, fiction, own-it
Read from September 15 to 20, 2012

I was recommended this book by a colleague at work. She told me that it was the best book she had read in ages. I clearly need to recommend some better books for her to read! It wasn't that it was a bad book - I did enjoy reading it. But it probably won't join the ranks of books I like to re-read or books I'd enthusiastically recommend to others.

In 1977 as the residents of Cherry Gardens hold a street party to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee a photographer from a local newspaper takes a photo. The photo appears to show the harmony of a multicultural Britain with a small Asian boy in the centre of the frame surrounded by his white friends and neighbours. But a photo only shows a freezeframe of one very brief moment without the sounds, the smells or any of the context given by what happened just before or what will happen next. And despite the harmonious impression of this photo the reality of that moment was something far less harmonious.

30 years on Satish, now a successful cardiologist, is asked to do a reunion photo. This forces him to face up to the events which happened on that day and his response to it threatens to unravel his life as it now stands. The story switches between this and 1977 to slowely unravel the story of what happened on the day of the photo. A story which shows just how much of a lie the apparent equilibrium of cultural diversity really was.

I thought it was interestingly put together and I liked the way that the story only unravelled bit by bit from the two different perspectives. But at the same time there were bits of the story which just seemed very flat and I feel like Harris could have made much more of this story. Satish himself was not enough of a character to really grab me. And even when he was going through great turmoil I found it hard to really connect with his emotions. I was never fully convinced by his addiction or even his fears to do with the past. I didn't find myself worrying for him - for his family or his career. I never felt fully able to appreciate either his current difficulties or the real situation of that day. In fact, I didn't ever really get the chance to forget I was reading a book and get totally involved in the characters and their life. And even though I enjoyed the book, that disappointed me.
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