“Knock people’s places down, just makes them cling on harder. Then you got people clinging on to dreams, and you can’t ever fight that. […] Cut something back just makes it grow thicker and faster, Carla says, but I guess no one ever told the police that.”
We Go Around in the Night and are Consumed by Fire is British author Jules Grant’s first novel. Set in modern times in Manchester, England, Grant’s first offering of urban fiction grittily portrays the lives of the central character, Donna, and her ten-year-old god-daughter, Aurora. Both are caught up in or affected by organised crime, gang violence and poverty in a not very nice part of town.
After I began reading the book, I very quickly noticed unusual things about this fast-paced and absorbing narrative. The book is written in present tense, which is a clever tactic by which Grant immediately immerses the reader into the story, its action and setting. The story switches between Donna and Aurora’s narration. They have distinct but incredibly authentic and likeable… even lovable… voices.
From the onset, I noticed words we don’t use in Australia. What the heck is a ginnel? Turns out it’s an alleyway. At first the new words and colloquialisms were disconcerting, along with the complete absence of any quotation marks throughout the entire story. But I persevered, and soon became accustomed to the style and voice of the novel, and the fantastic pace afforded by such writing methods.
In the spirit of urban fiction, Grant presents the reader with many confronting issues. In the same spirit, Grant unapologetically bombards the reader with the introduction of several characters throughout the book. Fortunately, the number of characters is not too overwhelming, and they are necessary to present the book’s many uncomfortable themes and images.
If urban fiction is meant to be gritty… gritty is what you get. We Go Around in the Night and are Consumed by Fire deals with grit such as torture, murder and violence, as well as the heartbreaking effects of poverty on children and families. Despite her gang associations and life in organised crime, Donna, a lesbian in her late twenties is smart, likeable, real and extremely loyal. When the story’s narration shifts to ten-year-old Aurora, the incredible authenticity of the little girl’s voice both delights and heartbreakingly dismays.
The book is peppered with flashbacks, which propel the story rather than hinder it, and add to its incredible momentum. Beautiful and relatable descriptions also feature throughout the story. A particularly moving one: “Me, I like the way it makes me feel when I sit here. Gives me a wide-open feeling, like there’s no doubt about it, there’s something beyond. I get the same thing at the airport, and Piccadilly station. Things moving, people going somewhere. Things rolling forward somehow. You can’t beat it.” How authentic and effective this snippet makes you feel, like you’ve lived it… like you’ve been there!