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The Bricks that Built the Houses

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  4,716 ratings  ·  501 reviews
Becky, Harry, and Leon are leaving London in a fourth-hand Ford with a suitcase full of stolen money, in a mess of tangled loyalties and impulses. But can they truly leave the city that's in their bones?

Kate Tempest's novel reaches back through time--through tensely quiet dining rooms and crassly loud clubs--to the first time Becky and Harry meet. It sprawls through their
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA (first published April 7th 2016)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  4,716 ratings  ·  501 reviews

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Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
It's obvious the author is a poet/rapper, in the best way. It feels young and honest. The story follows two women, Becky and Harry, and all the people that make up their lives. They are both struggling to achieve their dreams, at that weird age when it seems that everyone around them is already living their perfect life. I wasn't sure where the story was going for the longest time but at one point a romance tied it all together. Then it unraveled and tied elsewhere. Part young, risky and gritty, ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june-2016
I was so very excited to begin this, adoring Tempest's poetry as I do. I was expecting the language to be sweepingly gorgeous, and to evoke an awful lot of vivid pictures as the novel progressed. There were sections where the vocabulary startled or awed me, certainly, but others seemed so run-of-the-mill that there was an odd, almost jarring effect given to the whole.

The family dynamics presented here, and the way in which different lives overlap and intersect, are Tempest's strength; she under
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5-4 stars

I went into this book blind & while I had no expectations this novel really got me.

It makes you think about life and what the purpose of it is. It's very touching and honest. There's a rawness to it that had me captivated and I couldn't put it down.

It surrounds the lives of Harry & Becky, Leon is mentioned in the summary but he's not a major part of the novel. The novel focus more on Becky & her life, and Harry, Harriet, and her life. As new characters are introduced we learn their
Kate Tempest has a lot of potential as a writer. Her music is great, her poetry's even better, but this, her first attempt at the novel, just felt too predictable, too uneven, and large chunks of it were plainly, and therefore poorly, written. A lot of it read more like that of a first draft than a finalised, polished body of work. Whoever her editor was, they really let her down, as a lot of what was wrong here could have been fixed. Her writing is great in parts, exuberant and sharply real, sh ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: Award-winning poet and rapper Kate Tempest reads her debut novel, a tale of desire, ambition and untamed hedonism in London's beating heart.

Written and read by Kate Tempest. Tempest is a poet, rapper, playright and novelist. She was awarded the Ted Hughes Prize for poetry in 2013 for her epic narrative poem, Brand New Ancients. The following year, her narrative-led hip hop album, Everybody Down, was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Monsters an
Jane Branson
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given the chance, I will rave unequivocally about everything Kate Tempest does. She is a stunning stage presence and a poet of power, hypnotic, searing and passionate. But, this book is not perfect. The Guardian reviewer described it as "uneven and under-edited" and I think that's right; the sharper end of the editor's tongue seems to have been blunted - by Tempest's previous successes or perhaps by the pound-signs which must flicker when someone who is already famous writes a novel this good.

Jaclyn Crupi
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved it. It's a book about gentrification, yearning for more, urban life, loneliness and connection but it never overstates and is subtle in tone. I loved how it gives the backstory of each new character before returning to the narrative. A perfect contemporary London novel. The writing is lovely.
Best book of the year so far! Harry, Becky, Pete and Leon. Their families, their lives and their world has been so good to be immersed in. I've read it slowly but in big chunks. It is a hard book to write about. There are drugs, lots of drugs and the stories of the people involved in that world. This book is really harsh but is also very hopeful, as I was reading it I kept thinking of all the people I wanted to read it so that I could talk about it with them. I felt that these characters had bec ...more
Melanie Fritz
This is basically an adaptation of Kate Tempest's previous work, the rap album "Everybody down". The concept of taking the characters and stories from this narrative music album and expanding them for a novel is fascinating to me. It has a strong opening: Becky, an aspiring dancer who is enduring a PR party, meets down-to-earth drug dealer Harry - a spark is lit. We are introduced to Harry's partner in crime Leon, Becky's boyfriend Pete and their families, complete with fraught relationships tha ...more
Ben Gould
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
As a novel, TBTBTH very much reads like a work that originated in a different artform by someone who - however accomplished she may be in other fields - is demonstrably in need of far harsher editing than perhaps her reputation allows.

The opening chapter is practically a piece of performance poetry, barrelling along at a furious, rhythmic pace. This is somewhat justified as it's describing three major characters' adreneline-fuelled escape from London and some apparently very dodgy people for re
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, kindle, signed, 1own
hiccuping out some disjointed thoughts before I fall asleep. this was one of those books that you pick up every chance you have. I was snatching time to devour whatever I could, whenever I could. i reached for it before my phone in the morning, real people's lives no longer mattered. I stirred onions in a frying pan with one hand and got a cramp in my wrist holding this book in the other. I fell asleep with it pressed into the pillow beside my face, with Harry trespassing into my dreams. this bo ...more
Brona's Books
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kate Tempest is the woman of the moment in Sydney right now.

She's out here for the Sydney Writer's Festival. She's doing several speaking engagements including the opening address for the Festival that was held on Tuesday night.
She has also appeared on a number of TV and radio shows during her time here.

And, I think it's fair to say, that she has wowed, stunned and surprised everyone she has talked to.

Her dazzling, daring performance on Q&A has become one of those 'water cooler' conversations.

Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
- Clear voices. I couldn't get that accent out of my head
- Beautifully jagged poetry and language. I love a good simile and there were plenty here
- Interweaving plot/characters. Big fan of books that do this
- Was familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Author has clearly got an eye for detail

- One more reference to Uncle Ron's dirty dealings, from Becky's perspective, before it's revealed who he's working with, would have made it feel less forced/less surprising (I forgot about it be
Michael Livingston
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book about meaning and how to find it, about cities and communities, about love, fear, the excitement and confusion of life and about hope. Tempest is a creative hurricane - producing music, theatre, poetry and novels - she's an inspiring, imaginative and idealistic figure, and here she's produced a story that crystallises what she's about. There were a few moments of slightly awkward plotting, but the characters, the language and the genuine passion that flow through this book overpowered tho ...more
Gumble's Yard
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The book centres on three mid-20 characters in 21st century South London: Harry – a lesbian who acts as a high end drug dealer, typically selling to businessmen in their offices, or showbiz types, behind the front of being a recruitment agent; Becky a bi-sexual dancer, working as a waitress in her Uncle’s business (her own father she finds being a famous but now imprisoned political activist) and funding her dancing by working as a masseuse; her unlikely boyfriend Pete – a hopeless drug-addled l ...more
Kylie Maslen
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is a rare thing to be so moved and excited and engrossed in a book, and reading The Bricks that Built the Houses was a true privilege.

Full review up on book-plate here:
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: purchased
Some of the plot is a little pedestrian but at the same time it was more complicated than I expected and wove together quite nicely. Occasionally a tad earnest but contains a lot of wonderful observations and excellent metaphor.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a book by a British author that isn't excessively whingy and downbeat..... And this book is no exception to that rule.

Seriously, please explain to me one more time how t o u g h life is in south east london *eye roll*.

But anyway, gee, *long low whistle* Miss Tempest is one cynical lady. And on occasion, some of her remarks hit the nail on the head.

Personally though, I don't enjoy books with no plot and no real character development, so even though this is beautifully lyrical (T
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am surrounded by criticism for this creation. I understand where they are coming from, but am I glad I am not from where they are. It is a narrow view, which only serves to highlight prejudice to things new.
Kate has told the story of a generation, with utter truth and poetry. She speaks to an age which is usually ignored in art, as nothing remarkable happens in your 20's except the slow shift in to the dilapidated politics of adulthood. She speaks to society, at large, and to the heart of read
Emma Bradshaw
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Is there nothing this woman can't do? An incredible talent. Well observed and totally absorbing. Every sentence is perfectly crafted and demands to be reread. I can't wait to see what Tempest does next.
Anna Spargo-Ryan
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I like(d) Kate Tempest's voice a lot. I liked her core cast of maligned-but-mostly-hopeful characters. I liked the setting's Guy Ritchie vibe. I did not like the way the novel length was achieved through multi-generational backstory.
Ella Chochrek
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
I understand that this book has gotten generally good ratings on this site and even understand why people would like it. I just couldn't get into the story; something about it felt disingenuous to me, and I didn't love or appreciate Tempest's writing style.
Laura King
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Was really impressed by the prose at the beginning of the book, but apart from sections that focused on Becky or Harry, or even Pete, the energy was totally lost going through the motions of back stories of characters I wasn't as interested in
Rense Verweerden
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a short story or a very long poem, comes together beautifully in extensive metaphors, grim London portraits and the prosaic landscape of the city.
Was going to be four stars, but the ending just felt so lacklustre.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What an outstanding narrative voice Kate Tempest has. While the novel does move towards an established conflict and resolution, the real beauty of this book is the many interconnecting stories of people living in South-east London from all ages, backgrounds and cultures.

I'm not one for dog-earring pages, but there were so many phrases, passages, entire mini-narratives within this novel that I wish to return to, and I didn't have a pencil. Two examples:

Page 225: (in response to a well-meaning bu
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. This book starts at the end, with three people in what can be assumed is a bad situation, fleeing London. The first chapter, jarring at first, seems a stroke of genius as the book continues. Written in beautiful, flowing sentences that call out to be read aloud, this book explores these three characters, their parents, their friends, their friend's parents as they navigate the London scene. These are all flawed people who make their way the best they can by forming connections. When a ...more
Lorin Elizabeth
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tempest’s prologue dissolves briefly into rhyme and rhythm, reflecting her hip-hop roots, before verse is swept aside by the slow burn of plot and hoard of jostling characters (or bricks).

Becky and Harry meet for the first time at a bar amid a thrill of tension, hesitation and metaphor. They navigate the energy between them carefully, as they do their everyday existence traversing the urban grit of London.

Everybody’s looking for their tiny piece of meaning. Some fleeting, perfect thing that mig
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Terrific. A compelling narrative with some of the same characters and themes of her record, but also about so much more. Vivid details of a living, breathing, changing London, heart-stopping descriptions of heart's stopping. In its best moments the dense sentences with the prose are some of the best contemporary poetry around. Told with great empathy for her flawed, rich, complex characters, thus book will stay with me for a long time
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not enough stars for this book. Gut wrenching and brilliant. Stylistically intimidating. My first introduction to Kate Tempest. Now I'm listening to her albums and watching as much of her spoken word pieces online as I can. Tonight I watched her Brand New Ancients short films ... still feel breathless ... looking at my bookshelf and don't feel like I can choose another book to follow Kate Tempest ...
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Kate Tempest started out when she was 16, rapping at strangers on night buses and pestering MCs to let her on the mic at raves. Ten years later she is a published playwright, novelist, poet and respected recording artist. Her work includes Balance, her first album with band Sound of Rum; Everything Speaks in its Own Way her first collection of poems, the critically acclaimed plays Wasted, Glasshou ...more

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“Everybody’s looking for their tiny piece of meaning. Some fleeting, perfect thing that might make them more alive.” 9 likes
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