This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Verity Wilde
20-year-old Vivien Epstein arrives in London from Manchester in the summer of 1962 – shortly after the death of her father. As well as trying to make a fresh start, the young Jewish hairdresser is looking for Jack – who she had a brief love affair with when he visited her father some months before. As she tries to make a new life for herself working at a hair salon in Soho, she’s also trying to find him. But her hunt also leads her into the fight against fascism in east London – as members of the Jewish community take to the streets in the area around Ridley Road.
I’ll start by saying that I was woefully ignorant of the Jewish anti-fascist movement in the 1960s, but after reading this, I want to know more. In fact, I was almost more interested in that element of the story than I was in Vivian and Jack’s relationship, which surprised me because initially I was definitely more engaged in Vivian’s storyline. I wanted to hear more about the salon and the girls there – her integration and acceptance into London almost seemed too easy because we didn’t hear enough about it. But Jack’s storyline (I’m trying not to give too much away) is tense and gripping – although everything does get wrapped up quite quickly and neatly at the end.
Despite those minor reservations, Ridley Road is a really interesting and thought-provoking read. It is a work of fiction but it is inspired by true events – fascists really did try to make a comeback less than 20 years after the end of the Second World War.If you like books set in the sixties, this is definitely worth a look; there are a lot of novels set in London in this period, but Ridley Road felt like a story I hadn’t come across before. I’ll be looking out to see what Jo Bloom writes about next.