3 out of 4 stars
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Emma, Ginie, and Royanda are college students on their way to see a dog race. To get there, they hop on a double-decker bus. As the ride crawls along the route, sweeping every bus stop, the animated conversation of the trio fill the bus. Although loud outburst of noise is discouraged inside London buses, other passengers join in the discussion. The random chitchat makes the ordinarily long and slow bus ride equally entertaining and engaging. When the group finally reaches their destination, their typical college night becomes more than ordinary.
Ironing by Navajo is a novella presenting a slice of ordinary people's lives in a working-class community. There are no heroes or villains, only the usual people in the daily grind of life. It explores their views on current social issues and their challenges in coping with the changing world. The book touches on topics that are not limited to the following: child abuse, gender, discrimination, modern technology, political activism, poverty, religion, and unemployment. For instance, the younger generation has an evolving view of gender. They break away from stereotypes like associating gender with clothing and hairstyle. Likewise, the mature population is becoming more open in adapting modern technology to their usual activities like dating and grocery shopping.
What I find appealing in this work is the approach to present the story. The commuting experience immerses the audience to the reality of the people and place. The bus ride is a clever and creative way of capturing random ordinary people representing the locality, and at the same time, painting an image of the place. For instance, the passengers are of different races and composition. There are students, therapist, preacher, law enforcer, pensioner, to name a few. Also, Emma mentions the establishments on the street as she sees familiar people along the way.
The conversation of the college students is casual and free-flowing. They talk about anything under the sun. They include love life, climate change, raw food diet, and even the invasion of giant alien ants. The chitchat is humorous but reflective of their concerns. Likewise, their discussions shift abruptly and jump to other topics. Either they get distracted from their surroundings, or a previous topic inspires a new one. The structure of the book adapts this free-flowing conversation. There are no chapter breaks. The text continuously flows. The succeeding paragraph could be about a different and seemingly unrelated topic without a transition. Most of these paragraphs are splices of the realities of the passengers. The montage adds more depth to the characters and the issues that the book explores. However, the sudden shift is surprising at first and adjusting to it takes some time. Also, each of these short scenes has many names of minor characters, which may get confusing. These are what I dislike in the book.
Interestingly, the technique gives an indie-film vibe to the story. The most memorable montage is that of the abused boy. The scene is not graphic, but the raw reality of the account leaves a strong impact. It will be interesting to see the splices on film, which will give a better appreciation of the sudden shifts.
The story uses the third-person perspective, which works well with the montages. The language is conversational using British slang. Those who are unfamiliar with the slang will find a dictionary helpful. Also, profanity comes with the dialogues. There are no erotic scenes. However, there are accounts of sexual assault and child abuse, which are not graphic. The portrayals and views of some characters might be offensive to religious groups. These triggers call for the discretion of an audience 16 years old and above. Those who are keen on British culture and society and working-class communities will find this book appealing. It will also pique the interest of those who are looking for different approaches in storytelling.
The book gives an unusual take on something ordinary. It is a brave and noteworthy move. However, I have to drop a star because of the concerns with the montages and the editing. I suggest another round of editing to tighten up the consistency in terms of punctuation and spelling. That said, I gladly give 3 out of 4 stars.
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