Treacle Town is a hard-hitting tale of disenfranchised working-class youth with very strong language throughout.
Con O’Neil and his three best mates live and survive in Coatbridge, Scotland. Gang violence is rife and Con’s closest friend, Biscuit, has been murdered by a rival gang. There is pressure to avenge Biscuit but to do so would surely lead to dire consequences.
That is not the only pressure on Con. His mother is dead, having committed suicide. Con has no job. He lives at home with his body-builder father and the relationship has not been good since his mother died. Con’s mate Trig is putting serious pressure on to find the rival gang and get their own back. Sectarianism also rules in this grim environment.
Con spends the novel ruminating on how he can escape this environmental cage he seems to be trapped in. He does have a facility with words and discovers, online, a local slam poetry group that seem to specialise in challenging performances reflecting the reality of their lives. Incidents swirl around Con as he struggles to persuade himself to attend his first poetry slam in Glasgow.
Brian Conaghan, the author, comes from Coatbridge and the setting is portrayed vividly – a bleak place to live but with glimmers of solidarity and love. The novel is told in the first person, reflecting the local vernacular, which includes frequent use of swear words, which some readers might find offensive. The back cover states that the book is ‘not suitable for younger readers’ – no doubt because of the strong language.
This is a powerful novel for older readers of young people living in extremely challenging circumstances. Gritty, violent but ultimately suggesting that there is always hope.
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