Manchester? Check. Lesbians? Check. Gangsters? Oh, go on then. Reading the blurb of this debut novel by Jules Grant, a former barrister from Manchester, is more than enough to pique my interest.
Told through the eyes of Donna, leader of the all-female Bronte Close Gang and her god-daughter Aurora, the action is fast-paced and unrelenting from the off. When Carla, Donna’s best friend and Aurora’s mother, is gunned down in the murk of a bitter gang feud, we follow an emotional rollercoaster of vengeance and gang warfare. Grief-stricken Donna desperately seeks justice of the darkest kind for her closest friend. With the help of an ally of lesbians, there are twists and turns and oh so many characters to remember. LGBT readers are spoilt with lesbian portrayals.
We Go Around in the Night, is an engaging read with more emotional intensity than you can shake a stick at. Carefully interwoven flashbacks compliment the depth of emotions to make this more than just a standard tale of vengeance. Though Donna’s actions may be dubious for the law-abiding among us, we’re taken deep into her dark world and can see the skewed method in her madness. We root for her to come out the other side unscathed.
Meanwhile, a confused but streetwise Aurora takes us through her side of the journey. In a world a child should not be part of, Aurora displays the innocence and heart-wrenching confusion of a deeply lonely young girl, dealing with the worst kind of grief. At times Aurora is incredibly astute and wise beyond her years. So much so that there were moments I thought it was an adult narrative before it quickly returned to teenage lingo again. Though Aurora is sheltered from the true depth of criminality, she is savvy to the world she’s been born into. Nevertheless, her innocence and immaturity exposes her vulnerability which leads to inevitable danger.
We Go Around in the Night packs an emotive punch, and it’s the emotional exploration of the female psyche which shines through the novel. Gangster thrillers have been done time and time again – but played out through the eyes of fierce, complex women adds a welcome level of depth. This is particularly true of the exploration of intricate lesbian friendships, which can frequently become blurred. With such poor visibility of LGBT women in literature, it’s wonderful to venture into a world of female LGBT characters who drive the action. Indeed, the fact they’re lesbians is refreshingly incidental.
Manchester dwellers will revel in following the drama through the name-checked roads, landmarks and familiar haunts, brought to life through street-poet Donna’s narrative. However, the dark gangland underworld will prove far removed from the average reader’s experience of the fair city. It would be interesting to know how much of author Jules Grant’s experience as a barrister fed into this debut novel. Do lesbian gangs like this really exist? I’ve no idea but it’s a great thrill-ride with authentic and exceptionally written characters.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer, but throughout this novel I couldn’t help but think what a good screenplay it would make. Lesbian gangster thriller on BBC anyone? I’d watch.