Monday, September 6, 2010

Male Monday: Hello Mum

Hello Mum by Bernardine Evaristo

Rating: 3/5

IQ "To be honest, it was safer to leave London than move across it." Jerome pg. 13

In a story that is only 83 pages, a story unfolds about a tragic event that occur ed on a hot summer day in London. Teenage boys were in a chip shop and things got rough, resulting a teenage boy being stabbed. His mother doesn't understand how this could have happened. As an explanation is shared, she realizes it may not be something she wants to hear.

The Incredible Quote I shared may seem rather simple but it left an impact on me. Not because I don't understand it, but because I never imagined someone saying something like that about LONDON. I knew about soccer gangs from How Soccer Explains The World, but I never stopped to consider that Europe has gangs that aren't just related to soccer. Just goes to show how blissfully unaware I can be. The IQ could so easily be talking about any other city, and that's heart wrenching. The most compelling element of this story for me was the description of life in the rougher neighborhoods of London. I had a romanticized view of London and that has been changed. I'm not sure what these rough-neighborhoods are called in London (in America, rightly or wrongly they are often called ghettos. A phrase I'm not fond of) so for now I'll simply refer to it as a neighborhood. This book also illustrates that people's needs are the same. Jerome and his 'thug' friends want hot girls, clothes, shoes and cars. They also want respect. It's the same regardless of what continent you are on, their desires are no different than what any other teen would want. They just go about gaining all these cool things in a different (and oftentimes illegal) way than most people. Not only did I learn more about gang life in London, but I learned about the slang used. A question. Does geriatrics mean elderly people? (I don't mean to say geriatrics is slang, I just want to know what it means).

I was skeptical at how much could come across in such a short book. I shouldn't have worried, there was plenty of explanation of events and people to satisfy me. And yet I don't give the book the highest of ratings. This is because I felt no connection to the narrator. The story wasn't terribly gripping because I had already predicted what happened. The narrator was genuine. He was mostly sarcastic and rude, which hid how scared and frustrated he was with his situation. I felt sympathy for him, but that was it. He didn't make me laugh or cry, and he's not someone I would want to get to know in real life. I realize that sounds rather shallow but that's how I felt, no emotional connection. I didn't like the format of the story either. I explain more in the SPOILER(Highlight to Read): How on Earth could he have written a letter to his mother while he lays dying on the street? Um no. It was just too unrealistic and it annoyed me (probably more than it should have). Instead I think someone else should have told the story or the mom should have find some of his writings (since he wrote poetry and rap) that explained what life was like for him.*End of Spoiler

Hello Mum is a quick but far from light read. The conclusion is expected, but the strength of the story lies in the journey to the end, learning about why and how this stabbing occurred. Personally, I felt no emotional connection to any of the characters, but that could easily be different for other readers. I think this read might be most beneficial to American readers who have no idea what everyday life is like for people who live in the rougher neighborhoods of London. This is an eye opening read, not just in talking about the antics of gangs, but in the slang and descriptions of life in London. What may come as a surprise is in how similar gangs seem to view the world and their position in it, regardless of where they live.

Disclosure: Received from Book Fairy #3. *Hugs* Thank you!


  1. The last thing I think about London is gangs. I never really thought they had any to tell you the truth. I never heard of this book but it sounds like a emotional quick read. Great Review!

  2. You might enjoy WHEN I WAS JOE by Keren David. It just came out this month in the US and is also a book about gangs and knife violence set in London. Its main character is white, but his friend is multi-racial, and his neighborhood is quite diverse. Plus, it's an AMAZING book.

  3. Yes, geriatrics means elderly people (originally medical - geriatric care etc) but also used as slang.

    The rise of gang violence in my city is a sad and scary thing, especially in the last few years as knives and guns get more and more commonly involved. is both interesting, and terrible, terribly sad.

  4. I don't normally think of gangs in London either, but they're probably a part of the city landscape just as they are in Chicago or New York or LA to varying degrees, and you'd only run into them or be aware of them if you lived in certain neighborhoods, I imagine. I lived in Hyde Park in Chicago a few years ago, and occasionally you'd hear of a shooting or rape a few streets away, but most people I knew didn't associate that with gangs so much as general urban violence perpetrated by desperate individuals (covering a range of situations) and/or addicts of some sort. But I've read about how gang activity is a lot more prevalent in Chicago nowadays than it was, say, 20 or 30 years ago.

    Sounds like an interesting read, though sad. If you're looking for more about modern British culture (vs. reading Jane Austen, for example) with characters who you might connect more with, I suggest TV--in all that free time you'll have now that school has started, haha! There are a LOT of great British shows that are becoming easier to get a hold of here in the US. My favorite (genre girl that I am) is Doctor Who. You might particularly like Martha Jones, who I believe is the first POC companion the Doctor has had. Sassy, a doctor, strong family ties, etc. The first companion, Rose, is from a council housing project (what we'd call "the projects"--if you're looking for a slightly better alternative to "the ghetto") and it's an interesting, if still TV-story, look at what some Brits might call "chav" life. In between all the aliens and time travel, of course.

  5. but how does jerome describe the area code


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