Guerrillas in Our Midst by Claire Peate

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Guerrillas in Our Midst by Claire Peate

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A light, fun read with friendship and love at its centre. Best friends Edda and Beth have shared a rather charmed life in London - up to now. But Beth is moving on, in more ways than one: will the more sensitive Edda manage to break out on her own?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Honno
ISBN: 978-1906784256

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I did give a silent groan when I read chick lit on the front cover. I dislike the phrase itself and I'm also not a fan of the genre. However, the Big Issue states that this book has more substance than your average chick lit. Time to find out ...

The book opens in south-east London. It's a rather gritty urban place but friends Edda and Beth love it. And we soon get the low-down on a hush-hush project by some of the locals. They call themselves, rather grandly I thought, a guerrilla gardening society - but what the devil does it all mean? Edda and Beth stumble into the situation simply by listening to their gut instinct and doing what they feel is right for their neighbourhood. Basically, an eyesore of a skip (full, smelly) has been abandoned near Edda's house. No one wants to deal with it and take it away so the two girls come up with the idea of 'beautifying' it, if you like. Tipping in a whacking great load of topsoil and then planting it up with flowers etc. But all of this is done under cover of darkness. And Peate (what an appropriate name) gives us all the silly, giggly, half-drunken details of the girls' adventure. They've had plenty of adventurous times in the past (which we hear about later) and this lark is just another one to add to the list. They manage to keep it a secret. Difficult, they manage it - just.

The local paper writes up an article about it under the heading Something beautiful is happening in Brockley. And soon we're introduced to some of the locals. What a mixed bunch. And no pun intended. There's a couple of toffs who are hell-bent on tidying up the area, others who just want to get on with their lives and couldn't care less and then there's some die-hard proper locals. In the latter category there's Babs. An older woman who chain-smokes and has had a very colourful past. And right from her first words, I loved her. Her cockney chat is lively, infectious and fun. It's also very funny at times as she says the first words she thinks of and has a tendency to get some big words mixed up. Here's Babs with one of her many statements - Round 'ere it's the arse end of the Old Kent Road and yer can't change that. Terrific stuff. I wanted the whole book to be about Babs, if I'm honest.

Some parts of the book are, not surprisingly, a bit gushy and very girlie-girlie. The whole friendship thing between Edda and Beth is a strong theme throughout. And as I got to know the more-interesting of the two, Edda, I kind of got to like her. And as the story develops, we see the rather hesitant Edda take charge of her life. We see her making some grown-up decisions but are they the right ones? Boyfriends and lovers are now a big thing in her life. She's amazed and a bit stunned. What did she do right, she keeps asking herself. It's almost as if she's waited long enough for one decent man to come along ... then two come along at the same time. And the guerrilla gardening projects takes off. It blossoms. Pun intended. But is it all good news? Is everyone happy with the situation?

In this don't-take-this-too-seriously book, Peate has created some charming characters. And she has a bit of fun with the whole urban London versus the suburbs debate. Horse for courses and all that. A book to enjoy over a wet weekend with a glass of bubbly and a big box of chocolates. This book does what it says on the tin. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you should try Head Hunters also by Claire Peate. If you'd like to know more about Guerilla Gardening we can recommend On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries by Richard Reynolds.

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