My thanks to Emma at Damppebbles for asking me to take part in this blog tour. My copy of the book is my own, pre-ordered copy and this review forms my honest opinion.
It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, live in Clements Markham House – a semi-derelict Edwardian villa divided into unsanitary bedsits, and (mis)managed by the shrewd, Dickensian business man, Mr Kapoor.
When Mr Kapoor, in a bizarre and criminal fluke, makes him fabulously credit-worthy, John surprises his friends and colleagues alike by announcing he will organise an amazing ‘urban love revolution’, aka the Dig Street Festival. But when he discovers dark secrets at the DIY store, and Mr Kapoor’s ruthless gentrification scheme for Clements Markham House, John’s plans take several unexpected and worrisome turns…
Funny, original, philosophical, and unexpectedly moving, The Dig Street Festival takes a long, hard, satirical look at modern British life, and asks of us all, how can we be better people?
It’s probably fair to say that The Dig Street Festival is some way from my comfort zone when it comes to reading. And it’s probably also the right time to admit that due to this I was fairly adamant quite early on that it was not a book for me.
Thankfully, that changed. I took a deep breath, suspended belief and thoughts of everything else, focused and found myself settling into what will be hard pressed to be superseded as the most unique book I will have read this year. Scratch that. For my entire book blogging hurrah thus far.
The Dig Street Festival is quite a ride. Wholly unpredictable, deliciously bonkers and yet filled with surprising depth and emotion, the almost paternally tender relationship between the main character John Torrington and his friends Glyn and Gabby being a particular highlight. Together, the find themselves either by chance or design in the most bizarre of situations leading to genuinely laugh out loud moments.
At it’s core, this is a satirical look at society in modern day Britain, and in this vein, it works really well. John is a working class man, a trolley pusher and mopper-upper at the local DIY store, and society dictates that he be pigeon-holed and be defined by this position. Class and wealth rules the roost. However much John himself may rail against this, his intelligence and potential patently obvious to the reader, it becomes obvious at the point where he meets some rather rude posh-boys that he himself suffers from a lack of confidence in his own abilities. You can almost feel his character disintegrate under their glare. I hated them and for me, this was a really hard chapter to read so that it became a pivotal moment for me. By the chapters end I was going wherever John took me as his most willing champion.
Suddenly wealthy beyond his wildest dreams thanks to a flurry of credit offers, he determines to challenge the norm by organising an ‘urban love revolution’, and I read the ensuing chaos with many a chortle. Honestly, the author – despite taking imagination to wild extremes, writes with such engaging, unforced humour that I found myself completely onboard.
The Dig Street Festival won’t be for everyone, something I know the author has publicly voiced. However, I would say that it will likely be for more people than he thinks. I, for one was utterly charmed (sometimes in the most weird of circumstances) by the core three characters, the witty narrative and the refreshing journey the novel took me on. Whilst I’m not going to rush out and buy piles of satirical, social novels to fill my bookshelves – I will look forward to reading more from Chris Walsh in future.
Louise Walters Books: http://bit.ly/3f9jJvz
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3cakZfQ
Book Depository: http://bit.ly/3caF7yg
Published in paperback and digital formats by Louise Walters Books on 15th April 2021
About the Author
Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction, an example of which you can read here in May 2020’s Moxy Magazine.
Chris’s debut novel The Dig Street Festival will be published by Louise Walters Books in April 2021.
Chris’s favourite novel is Stoner by John Williams and his favourite novella is The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy. His top poet is Philip Larkin. He is also a fan of Spike Milligan.