Last of its kind.
I'm officially giving up on Michael Chabon.

Not your typical cozy British village.

Good lord, if you've got any kind of trend toward depression, don't pick up Nicola Monaghan's The Killing Jar.

Jar Monaghan's slim novel is set on a council estate* in the British city of Nottingham, where life's anything but cozy cups of tea and Miss Marples and Christmas crackers and any other jolly British stereotype you can come up with. This novel is filled with poor people, mothers addicted to heroin ("brown") who can't be bothered to care for their children, and children themselves who start selling drugs and living together as young teens to form their own family units in lieu of any kind of other normal childhood and young adulthood.

And yet? I really, really liked it. I liked Monaghan's main character, Kerrie-Ann Hill (most frequently called "Kez"), even though or perhaps she grew up in a shitty world and did what she could to survive, including falling in love with Mark Scotland, her childhood friend and, in the beginning, a fairly sweet guy who looked after her younger brother when she got sent to the British equivalent of juvie and her mother spent most of her time high.

But I'm not going to kid you. It is a relentlessly dreary novel. If you don't think you can stomach reading about junkies and beatings and people who never stop letting other people down, I can't recommend it. But it does offer moments like this:

"They reckon you feel love in your heart but that's bollocks. True love, the type what strikes you down and makes you change forever, you feel that kind of love in every fucking organ inside you. Liver, kidneys, heart, and spleen. Every tiny cell what makes up your brain and your spine, your bones and blood and muscles. It keens through you." (p. 270.)

Oh, that gave me shivers. That gave me Emily Bronte-esque shivers, the way I shivered when I first read Wuthering Heights and found Cathy's monolgue about Heathcliff: "My love for Heatcliff is like the eternal rocks below, a source of little visible pleasure, but necessary."

*Evidently council estates in Great Britain are the equivalent of our "projects" here, found in urban areas. If you'd like to see what they look like, check out an episode of Shameless, which is set on a council estate (in Manchester, I think) and leaves VERY little to the imagination.