In her stunning debut, Nicola Monaghan lays bare the gritty underbelly of life in Nottingham, England.
Very early on, Kerrie-Ann begins to dream of the world beyond the rough council estate where she lives. Her father is nowhere to be found, her mother is a junkie, and she is left to care for her little brother. Clever, brave, and frighteningly independent, Kerrie-Ann has an unbreakable will to survive. She befriends her eccentric, elderly neighbor, who teaches her about butterflies, the Amazon, and life outside of her tough neighborhood. But even as Kerrie-Ann dreams of a better life she becomes further entangled in the cycles of violence and drugs that rule the estate.
Brilliant, brutal, and tender, The Killing Jar introduces a brave new voice in fiction. Nicola Monaghan's devastating prose tells an unforgettable story of violence, love, and hope.
Nicola Monaghan won a Betty Trask Award, the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award and the Waverton Good Read for her first novel, The Killing Jar. Her latest book is The Troll: The Boy with the Sliver of Ice in his Heart and is the first in a trilogy. She also wrote The Night Lingers and other stories, Starfishing and The Okinawa Dragon and has been published widely in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She writes for screen too and is working on her first feature. She teaches Creative Writing at De Montfort University, as well as online at Udemy.com
Just look at this cover. It has a pretty girl and a butterfly. I wonder what this book might be about? As it turns out it’s about drugs, sex, violence, murders, abortions, prostitution and suicides. Aw, that’s cute. The only thing missing are ponies.
This is how the narrator describes the birth of her little brother:
“I shrugged. Mam’d always slept a lot and I’d never thought much of it. I looked at the baby, his mouth open and tongue wriggling as he screamed. I noticed he used his whole body to cry with. Looking back now, I wonder why the nurses didn’t give him a bit of methadone or summat to help him out but they let him go cold turkey instead. What a way to come into the world. Never stood a chance, our Jon.”
So, Vintage Books dot Co dot Uk, I actually love ya, but this cover is a serious case of false advertising. I know there is this rule in publishing that anything written by a woman needs a cute cover, otherwise other women would panic and wouldn’t buy it, and I know that there technically was a butterfly in the book, but for God’s sake! Alex Wheatle’s books get way better covers and his stuff is not half as grim as ‘The Killing Jar’. Yeah, it’s called ‘the KILLING JAR’. The butterflies on the cover should be DEAD.
Ok, rant over. This book was actually quite awesome. It should be a recommended read for all judgemental people, Tory MPs, Mitt Romney, and everybody else who feels just a little too smug about themselves.
Kerry-Ann, the narrator, is smart, funny, sarcastic, angry, soft, hard, sometimes out of control, just as you have to be to survive on an estate and come out on the right side against all odds. Nicola Monaghan creates a voice that’s psychologically deep with prose that’s beautiful without compromising the authenticity of the character and which tells a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
By the time Kerry-Ann is fourteen, she has already been through things someone her age shouldn’t even watch on tv. And there’s more to come. Don’t get it twisted, though, the book isn’t just some ‘poverty porn’ style piling up of gruesome events to get you teary-eyed. Far from it. It does make you emotional, of course, but more importantly, it makes you understand. Ten points for social determinism.
The downside of reading “The Killing Jar” is that you might want to try ecstasy and start writing ‘could of’ and ‘should of’. Still, I’d say read it, even you don’t normally go for things with pretty girls and butterflies on the cover.
This is the most outstanding book I've read in a long time. I give it 6 out of 5. A stunning piece of work, more so as it's a first novel. Obviously a gifted and intelligent writer. The story is terrible in the truest sense. Original in Nottingham accent from page 1 to the end, the story is steeped in authenticity, horrific as it is. The events steer inevitably towards a crescendo of fear. Having said that, I recommend it as mandatory reading for this day and age that we live in. The poverty driven drug culture is everywhere. This story was a gift for me in many ways as I've been around the edges of such cultures in Australia and know the destruction. I've heard many of the same stories. If anyone thinks that this stuff is over the top and doesn't happen, think again. It's out there. This novel helped me to better understand the impact of growing up in a dysfunctional culture, and the inability, the unwillingness even, to reach for something better, the difficulty in extracting oneself from the only life known, from the only love known, and how that life, that ignorance and that 'love' create a set of prison bars. Within this environment, the person descends into a hell of the culture's creation. The writing style is highly engaging and holds integrity throughout. Whilst the ending of the story was unexpected, I also read into the ending that there were various optional endings that happen every day in this cultural setting....and we know what they are. This book says why they are.
I won't rate this book, as I wrote it myself so might be a little bit biased. However, since you are allowed to review your own book on Goodreads, I thought I'd say a few words. I started this book in the middle of my MA studies at Nottingham Trent University. I'd lived away from my home city for about a decade, and just moved back. It made me see the city in a new light; as both an insider and an outsider, which was really quite strange. A writing exercise where we were asked to draw a map inspired the basis of the book. I drew a map of the little Close (cul de sac) where I used to live as a child, and a picture of butterfly. If you've read the book, you'll know just how significant those two pictures turned out to be!
This stunning, darkly disturbing novel gripped me from the opening page, with its strong voice and its fully-realised world. I was changed by reading it, I can't stop thinking about it, and if this is not the mark of a great book, I don't know what is.
I liked this book at lot. It was hard hitting, disturbing, in a horrible society but had uplifting tones to it.
Kerri-Anne is a girl who grows up in a drug fueled society where drugs affected every facet of her life from the earliest age. Drugs, rape, violence and murder are the norm. Kerrie-Anne is abused by the environment and also inflicts abuse on others. Aspects of her though have merit and we see the good emerge from the evil.
Initially I struggled reading this book because of the colloquial language. For example the word owt had a different meaning depending on the context. Mid way through the book however I realised that the language made me slow down and in slowing I understood the environment better. It also intensified the feeling that this society was so alien to our everyday environment.
It would be easy to dispel the plot because it is so sordid that it should be ignored, but we know that societies like this actually exist. Persisting with it, enables the reader to get a view of the life drug addicts lead, and the feeling that good can emerge from it.
I felt that drug Ecstasy was portrayed as a less evil drug than others, to the point of being OK. Eventually though all drugs were presented as being destructive.
It's not an easy read in style or subject but is well worth the effort
My rating criteria is..
5.0 - Amazing 4.5 - I loved it 4.0 - I liked it a lot 3.5 - I Liked it 3.0 - It was OK 2.5 - Just 2.0 - I wouldn't bother 1.5 - I didn't like it much 1.0 - I disliked it
Once you've read far enough into this book not to notice that it's written "Irish like", you won't be able to put it down. In fact, I was even wondering whether Kerrie-Ann (or Kez) actually lived and had this extremely tragic life. Fortunately the cover insert tells you that Monaghan is a college graduate, i.e. not someone that's high on "E" and living with a junkie for a boyfriend ... which in a "pupae" is what this book is about. Because of the symbolism of a killing jar though, there is much more to this story.
Describing life on "the estate" as a killing jar could not be more apt: Here are special people, beautiful ones that could spread their wings and fly anytime! Unfortunately the foundations are covered in a chemical, heroine in the case of Kez's "mam" and boyfriend, Mark. At first the effects of the drug are not all that visible, but as time goes by signs of their addiction cannot be hidden. They come to look like the skeletal, suffocated moths Kez accidentally discovers at her neighbour's house. Once the chemical is in your system, nothing really matters anymore except your next shot. Fortunately, Kez promises herself "never to do brown" because she'd seen what it did to her mother (for one thing, neither Kez nor her brother knew who their fathers were). When things become virtually unbearable under Mark's roof, she makes an important decision. A decision that leaves Mark staring at her through the glass, desperately tapping at it through the fumes of chemical, mouthing I love you .... But it's too late and Kez had learnt the hard way that "love" can only be equated to a white powder for a junkie.
With hindsight, it's possible to see that the book was written by an outsider. In fact, she could well have been investigating "crime at its roots" just the way Duggie was, and he got killed for it. If you read carefully as well, you will notice that the accent skipped a paragraph or so near the end! That doesn't, however, reduce the drama and spellbinding quality of the book.
A wonderful read that sits in both the tradition of Welsh and Kelman, yet anticipates such fictions as Rowling's 2012 novel, The Casual Vacancy. It's depiction of chav existence is merged with the aspirational societies which has underpinned the refiguration of class in Britain since the late 1970s.
It follows Kez for just over a decade of her life and the social turbulence that is her childhood. Made to sell drugs to local school children, Kez is sent to a youth offenders organisation; her mother abandons her and little brother Jon; and latterly she becomes involved in the murder of an outreach worker and a police officer.
While on the one hand The Killing Jar outlines the difficulty writers of class fiction now face: they must, it seems, depict the ostensibly gritty and appalling realities of working-class existence. Yet, on the other hand, the novel highlights the cultural politics of Britain in the early twenty-first century. Asking questions such as 'what can the working-class be today?', the novel subtly points towards the difficulties of contemporary Britain for the working class: we must be, either, disgusting or we must sell out and capitulate to ideas of aspiration, eschewing our class backgrounds.
The novel, I think, moves between these two points. It is static and unfixed, flitting between popular ideas of what working-class writing should be as well as pointing out the ways in which contemporary politics has constructed the working class in it's contempt for it. With it's string voice and wonderful employment of Nottingham dialect it is a thoroughly brilliant novel. A must read for anyone interested in working-class writing today.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This book was unlike any other I have read - it's gritty and uncompromisingly realistic. It's edgy, dark, and disturbing, but I never felt like the author was purposefully manipulating the reader's emotions. In other books, there are certain scenes that are obviously written to force the reader to feel pity, disgust, anger, etc. While the book definitely inspires some of these emotions, it all seems authentic. The main character is expertly written - she grows and changes over the course of the novel from a clever, curious, and (mostly) oblivious child to a multi-faceted and complex young woman. It is hard to describe the adult Kerrie-Ann as one (or even a few) things. She's complicated.
It took me longer than I expected to read this short novel; it's powerful, intense, and very thought-provoking.
UGH, most of the reviews of this book say that in real life, if this girl were in this situation, it would not be that bad, and that the author has exaggerated the effects of this type of life on a person. This is a grave misconception. Not only would the life of someone in this situation be "that bad" it would likely be much, much worse. If Kerrie Anne were in the same situation she is in this book, there would have been similar events. She would likely to have been raped multiple times, and had many attempts on her life. It is also possible that she would have done so to others herself. Everyone should be notified that this is not an over-exaggerated "sob-story" it is very similar to what could actually happen.
This book is not for everyone-it is very compelling but a very tough subject. The main character, Kez, tells her story of growing up the un-cared for daughter of a heroin junkie in London. She is smart and dreams of escaping from her awful situation, but just gets deeper and deeper into it. She grows up way too fast, dealing and using drugs while still in elementary school. You keep rooting for her, hoping that the spark of humanity within her isn't completely snuffed. This particular story is fiction, but it made my heart go out to the kids who grow up in such compromised and nearly hopeless situations.
Okay, this book. Where do I even begin? Well, if you read my blog then you know that I say this for every review. I am a character driven reader. I need characters that are so developed and so well written that I feel like they are an old childhood friend. I need that relationship with the characters in order to love a book.
Well, Nicola Monaghan, hats off to you. You did such an amazing job with Kerrie-Ann. Within reading just pages in, I wanted to hug her and protect her as her five year old self. Then, as she grew, I wanted to walk beside her and try to steer her away from the inevitable trouble she would find herself in. I adored her. Her life was no walk in the park, but she took it all in stride and adapted the best she could. I sincerely, and wholeheartedly admire your ability to create a character.
I honestly have nothing but praise for this author’s writing abilities. Not only was she able to create amazing characters but she is also amazing at using her words to paint such a vivid and clear picture for the reader. I could see Kerrie-Ann. I could see the neighborhood she grew up in. I could picture the roads as she walked down them. I could see vividly the people she encountered. Honestly, the book played out like a movie in my minds eye. My imagination ran wild with imagery with this novel. It was crisp and clean, I could see and sense my surroundings, just as Kerrie-Ann did, page by page. It was truly a pleasure to read.
This book faces tough issues. Drugs, poverty, violence, and loss. It’s brutal, honest, and just such an accurate depiction of what so many people live through in today’s world where drugs have kidnapped our society and destroyed so many lives. That’s not to say the entire book is about drug culture, it’s not. It’s about Kerrie-Ann and how she’s born into that life of drug culture. It’s about how she takes what she’s given and does what she has to do to survive. The story isn’t exaggerated or unbelievable. Its so real that I felt like I could have been reading about this little girl’s life in the newspaper, or watching her life’s story being played out on the most highly anticipated documentary of the year.
I always try to include one “criticism” in my reviews. Though, I can hardly call this a criticism. The book is written by an English author, and is written exactly as Kerrie-Ann’s accent would sound. Which made it hard to follow at first, being an American. I couldn’t figure out some of the words and what they were supposed to be if that makes sense. However, as the book went on that became less of a problem and more of what made the novel so personal and endearing to me. By the end of it, I couldn’t have imagined it being written any other way. I felt like I was reading her journal. It added a personal touch that brought me even closer to the characters and the surroundings. So, I guess it’s not much of a criticism at all. It’s just a heads up of sorts, that you may stumble over the language at first, but before long you will grow to love it as part of what makes the novel so amazing.
So, who would I recommend this novel to? Honestly? ANYONE! I can’t imagine that anyone would find this book not enjoyable. I can’t think of another time I’ve ever said that, to be honest. Even with MY favorite book of ALL time “The Valley of the Dolls”, I would say you have to be okay with some romance to enjoy it. With this book, however, I can honestly recommend it to anyone. Man or woman, old or young, it doesn’t matter. I think, if you pick up this novel, you are going to fall in love.
When I first began reading this, I couldn't work out what accent our narrator should have. Once I figured out where the story took place and learned the lingo, it was much easier to get into. I guess I didn't pay much attention to the synopsis of the book, because it says where the story takes place in the very first paragraph.
Five-year-old Kez, short for Kerrie-Anne, spends a lot of time with the woman next door, an elderly german entomologist. This is where she learns about a world outside of her estate in northern England, the beauty of insects, and the killing jar. Later, her neighbor is found dead, killed by the same chemicals the woman used to suck the life out of the insects she studied. Kez finds her clutching a rare butterfly encased in glass, and keeps the butterfly as a reminder of her friend. It brings her comfort when there is none to be found elsewhere, which is often the case throughout her life. Toward the end of the book, we find out that the memory of her neighbor and the butterfly are even more significant to the story than we originally thought.
Surrounded by drugs and violence, Kez is a product of her environment. She has no father and her mother is a junkie. She and her younger brother are left to their own devices, and she is forced to sell drugs from a very young age, along with an older boy from the neighborhood named Mark. It becomes a way of life for her and puts food on the table. Kez is a likeable character, both very strong and deeply vulnerable. You can't help but feel sorry for her. She makes some terrible choices for lack of positive influences in her life, but it's impossible not to root for her. She has been dealt an awful hand, and she is playing it the only way she knows how.
This is the story of Kez as a teenager, told through her own eyes. It's a story of abandonment, despair, violence, abuse, hope, love, sacrifice, and redemption. It is a dark, drug-induced vision of the world through the eyes of a young girl who is forced to grow up much too quickly.
Liked this alot. The dialect takes a bit of getting used to but once you get into it, it begins to flow. The author jumps right into the disturbing details of life in a very tough neighborhood and introduces death right away. It's about destruction, and how difficult it is not to self-destruct in a world that basically pushes you in that direction. Doing what you have to do to survive no matter how wrong it is, how hurt you get, what horrible things you need to do. But also shows a glimmer of hope and want to better yourself though out. In Kez's case, her desire to travel and see the rainforest, and the book about the rainforest she purchases early in the story makes a repetitive appearance throughout her hardships and downfalls allowing us to see that she's never truely a changed person for the worst.
I had such mixed feelings about this book. It's a quick read and it definitely sucks you in, but it sometimes seems so over-the-top. Set in a British housing estate, it tells the story of a young girl who's born into a life of drugs and crime. I found it hard to believe that some of these events could really take place. But the narrative voice was so strong I was hooked and kept reading. I also had mixed feelings about the ending. I felt like it was heading in one direction, but then it went a different way. Is that vague and spoiler-free enough?
The Killing Jar is the story of a young girl, who grows up in house filled with drugs, violence and addiction. Her slow transformation from young girl who still believes in a different life, into the life of a psychotic addict is mesmerizing and disturbing. Perhaps the most effective element of this novel is her utter likability, even as she commits a series of increasingly violent crimes as she tries to escape the lifestyle.
I found this book absolutely riveting. Perhaps because I grew up in Nottingham so could relate up many if the places in the book but I just loved the hope triumphing over desolation element of the story.
The main character was faulted but you just couldn't help rooting for her and wanting her to have a better chance in life.
Considering the dark nature of this story, it's actually a quick read. It is gripping at times and you also feel sorry for Kez because of the upbringing she's had. I live very close to the Aspley estate in Nottingham so I could picture myself in Kez's place as she wanders the streets to the shops and to Six ways. Overall the story was good.
So I was craving a contemporary book about drugs and violence and love and sex and sadness. Because sometimes I cant handle another fantasy book with a sword yielding maiden. And I got EXACTLY what I asked for.
This is set in 70's Nottingham back in the days of vinyl records when raves in fields were taking off. Our protagonist is Kerrie-Anne who goes through SO MUCH SHIT. We follow her growing up and her struggles with living on an estate and the people she loves going off the rails and succumbing to addictions etc. A lot of horrible things happen. Have I mentioned that? TW for murder and abusive relationships and hard drugs etc etc. Youre really rooting for her in this though. Despite everything her upbringing has made her think and do (which is VERY BAD💀). You want her to find her wings. 🦋🥺
'His features melted into each other and all the animal was sucked out of them. He looked so vulnerable.' This line got me.
I recommend this if you feel like a massively refreshing yet horrible break. 💀😂
Don't do drugs kids. Unless it's weed. I ain't no hypocrite. 🍃
I am not sure where or when or even why I purchased it. It is not my usual kind of book. I also feel bad about giving it a 2-star rating and I only give it that because of how depressing it is. The story line is interesting but dark. It is a book of hope but through some very troubling issues. And Monaghan wrote this based upon real lives growing up in the low income housing of England. It is very well-written and beautiful but heart-wrenching.
This is the story of Kerrie-Ann who is being raised in a home with a junkie mother and drug running "uncle." She finds a friendly face in a friend, Mark, who both saves her and brings trouble into her life. It is a story of hope, love, and heartbreak.
If you like true to life stories, real grit life, and stories about insurmountable hope - this book is for you.
This one took me by surprise. I found it in a box of books on clearance and was no disappointed. Though the name implies something sinister, I still had no idea how captivated I would be with this book. The only issue I had was that it was written from the point of view of the main character and in an accent which took me a while to figure out.
I really enjoyed this because it's set in the area that I grew up in so a lot of the streets and places were known to me. I also loved that it was (partially anyway) written phonetically because I felt a greater connection to the characters... They sounded just like me!
It's tough when a book comes highly recommended to you and you don't like it. I always feel a bit guilty. But this book was so tedious and vexing that there is no way I can even pretend to like it. It wasn't the dark subject matter than turned me off. True, it isn't my usual type. But I don't mind the occasional dark and gritty novel if it is well written. But this was a debacle from start to finish.
To start with the colloquial slang made ease-of-reading almost nonexistent. I've read other things written similar slang and not had nearly that much difficulty trying to decipher what the author was trying to say. Parts of it were almost incoherent.
This story is being told as a drug addict recalling her early life. It is mentioned several times that she has trouble recalling things. So the story skips around and has major holes in it. I suppose that the writing is supposed to sound like a real drug addict was trying to recall their story, but this really failed in execution. The entire thing is a jumbled mess.
Add to that I did not like the main Character at all. And since all of the other characters are seen through her drug-addled brain, they are likeable either. I was expecting an emotionally wrenching story. But my tear ducts didn't even twinge. Yes, it is tragic that so many children are doomed to stay in the socioeconomic dungeons into which they are born, but this novel did not do an effective job at invoking empathy, enlightening, or entertaining.
So what was the point? Was this supposed to be an exposé on children in the slums? A portrait of a drug user? There were times when it felt like Monaghan was trying to make this book almost a thriller. But those moments always petered out and left me saying, "That's it??" As the story progressed the foreshadowing was so obvious that I wanted to slam the book down. I got tired of reading things like "If only I'd known then what was coming" and "I should have realized then how it would end." Even though I didn't know exactly how it would turn out, the continually gearing up for what turned out to be an extremely flat ending was so frustrating. This book tried to be too many things and didn't achieve any of them well.
Overall, this book was filled with incoherent writing, stop-and-go plot, lack of any cohesion, and dragged-out characterization that doesn't go any where. If this book had been any longer, there is no way I could have finished it.
Kerrie-Anne Hill lived a full life before the age of 18. Raised in Nottingham estates by a junkie mother who ran out when Kez was 16, a series of "uncles" in and out of the house, and a little brother left to raise...all Kez could do was find ways to fend for herself. Her junkie boyfriend moved in shortly after her mom left. Living the drug life, of dealing, using and a series of murders, Kerrie-Anne fights to be set free reguardless of the price.
I picked this book up simply because it was a hardback on the sale shelf. The first few sentences pulled me in. I had the impression it was an adult novel although after the first few pages it was apparent that it catered to the pre-teen/teen crowd. It is a fast and mildly entertaining read. I could not empathise with the main character or really any of the characters at all. The characters felt flat and the story line redundant.
Monaghan's ideas were good....but the execution fell short.
If you want to read a realistic and well written novel about drugs...read anything by Irvine Welsh
I wouldn't expect too much, The book itself is confused, I can see that it was trying to be a hybrid in a sort of crime-thriller-romance novel but it didn't really work. The shock card is played too much with very little build up to any. For example, one of the key events early on in the book is mentioned on about three lines and that's that, which would be fine if it was just that one event, it may even add to the drama of it all. However, it's all of them, so it just makes the novel seem clumsy. This is furthered by the inconsistent colloquialisms, if it were all in a strong Nottingham dialect, it'd be fine, but it's not. There are alternate lines at some points where it is in the Queen's royal English and then Nottingham slang and then correct English again. To be fair, Kez and Mark are not badly developed as characters, but they share the same flaws as the book - they're too conflicted. The rest of the characters are described very briskly and it just about works. All in all, it's not bad but don't break your back to read it