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Helen Walsh – Brass

first_imgI was handed this book on the way to the gym. Wandering through sun-dappled cloisters, the sounds of birdsong and cricket practise enveloping me, I thumbed idly through the first chapter. Nothing could quite prepare me for the hard-hitting nature of this novel. By the third page I am deeply involved in lesbian sex with a hooker in a graveyard. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, by page ten I am trying desperately to hold my own in a world of strobe-lit flings and comedowns from drugs I have never heard of, described in language I never knew existed. I totally and utterly fail. Having thrown the Oxford English Dictionary into the nearest skip in a rage of apoplexy at its inadequacy, however, I resolve to plough on nonetheless. So, enthroned on the left-hand exercise bike in LA fitness, I follow foul-mouthed, fouler-tempered Millie O’Reilly from solitary drinking binges to molesting teenagers in club toilets, on a trail of selfdestruction punctuated by passages of amazingly evocative description. One such passage depicting an ecstasy-enhanced thunderstorm over the Merseyside docks is spellbinding; those expressing the ineffable joy of voiding one’s bowels when coked up, less so. Alluringly promising “a female perspective on the harsh truth of growing up in today’s Britain”, the author, though sufficiently compassionate, fails to create a character which those eager to discover this new perspective can identify with. Arena may have called Walsh the female Irvine Welsh but she falls far short of this title in Brass. Insufficient depth is given to the emotional build-up to Millie’s odyssey of self-abuse, and her eventual break-down, though inevitable enough, seems to come when the author’s, rather than the heroine’s, stamina fails. That said, however, Walsh presents a shocking portrait of the underbelly of Liverpool Cathedral’s area; an understanding of which creeps up slowly but suddenly overpowers, much like, Walsh assures me, a particularly pure Ecstasy tablet.ARCHIVE: 5th week TT 2004last_img read more