Piggy Monk Square

By Grace Joliffe
(2005, Tindal Street Press, £7.99)

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

Liverpool-born writer Grace Joliffe - now a resident of Ireland - releases her debut novel, a tale of life in early 1970s Toxteth told through the eyes of a child.

Nine year old Rebecca, known as ‘Sparra’ due to her skinny legs, darts around South Liverpool with her best mate Debbie, letting their imagination run wild with the characters that wander the streets alongside them. ‘Stabber’, the ‘psycho-killer’, who goes out hunting for victims with his Alsatian, old Harold the drunk, who pushes his equally inebriated wife home in the pram every night, and the local bully boys Uffo and Lippo.

All of this is a welcome distraction for Sparra from the tensions of her family and the cruelty of school. Like every child she ignores the warnings of adults to fear strangers, God, and most of all ‘the bommy’ - a collection of derelict houses left since they were bombed in the blitz. However the temptation proves too much when Sparra and Debbie find the perfect den in a buried cellar, they get warned off by a nosy cop, but if they're not going to listen to their parents they won't take advice from one of the dreaded 'pigs', with dark and tragic results.

This is a tight and tensely written story that captures well the imagination of children as well as the confusion and alienation that is so often a part of growing up, trying to follow the rules of the adult world when they keep changing. An excellent debut novel.

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