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Book Review: Johnny Come Home by Jake Arnott


Drew Payne

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Against the backdrop of 1972 London, four lost souls collide. Pearson has just lost his lover, O'Connell committed suicide. The activist Nina feels her ideals slipping away from her as she also watches the trial of the Angry Brigade, the anarchist group accused of a spate of bombings. Sweet Thing, a streetwise rent boy, can make anyone desire him, but who or what does he desire? Johnny Chrome is on the verge of his big breakthrough as the next big thing in glam rock, a breakthrough he has been working for far too many years.

The 1960s are over and the world is changing as the new decade begins.

Jake Arnott’s novel captures the changing world of early 1970s London. The hope of the 1960s has gone but the anger and unrest of the 1970s is only just beginning. People are beginning to protest and to push back. Arnott captures the changing society these people are living in, the shifting and uncertainty of these times. He also captures the displaced nature of the characters here, all of them trying to find a place for themselves in this changing world.

Arnott’s strength is his feeling for characters. He gets under the skin of four, very different characters here. He gives each one the same degree of insight and development here. Often with multi-character novels, a writer will favour one or two characters, the ones they like and/or identify with the most. Here Arnott gives equal attention to all his central characters, showing no favouritism.

The big drawback with this novel is there is an abundance of riches. Arnott has chosen several, big plots here, covering different themes and subjects. There is enough plot and subject-matter in this novel to fill two or even three stories. This did leave some of the plot with less room to breathe and develop. This might seem a quibble, but I did want Arnott to fully develop the plot strands that didn’t get enough space.

This novel not just captures the feel and atmosphere of the early seventies; it draws the reader into the lives of a mismatched group of people living around the edges of this society. Arnott also draws a very accurate portrayal of living in a squat, a way of life gone now. Like so much of Arnott’s writing, this novel is well worth spending time with.

Find it here on Amazon

Edited by Drew Payne

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