|Blue Collar by Danny King|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Paul Harrop|
|Summary: Builder Terry falls for refined Charley - can their relationship span the class divide? A breezy, laddish tale of love, loss and reality TV.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: June 2009|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
Take a more-than-usually sensitive brickie, add a posh girlfriend, throw in a reality TV crew and what have you got? Well, probably something between a lad-lit love story, and a modern comedy of manners. To be fair, Blue Collar is more the former, with few pretensions to the latter. And as an accessible yarn with a few swipes at middle-class mores, it does a workmanlike job.
Much like Terry, our hero and narrator in fact. Spending his days on a south London building site, he's a hardworking skilled labourer. He wakes one hungover morning next to a blonde stranger. She turns out to be Charley, a blonde stunner with an investment banker dad, a job in advertising and lots of ex-uni mates in the media.
Cue a relationship with much mutual affection, hedged around by the social and educational disparities of the lovers. But if there are problems, they are mainly of Terry's making. Baulking at trendy bars and wary of the eggs benedict and puy lentils eaten by Charley, his paranoia about her motives threatens and ultimately derails the relationship.
Blue Collar is at heart, a simple boy-meets-girl story. The plot, such as it is, only really gets going in the second half of the book, when Charley's TV producer mate gets the green light to base a reality show on the building site where Terry works.
The preceding pages depict Terry's view of his first few months with Charley. If you're expecting a profound study of character and feeling, or of class politics, this isn't the book for you. A former bricklayer himself, Danny King is more informative (and actually quite interesting) about the techniques of modern building construction.
The chatty, blokeish style fits the narrator well, and there's plenty of humour at the expense of hieroglyphic girly text messages, and one very good joke about Morrison's. Though there was for me at least, little of the laughing out loud which, according to the cover blurb, King's writing inspires in David Baddiel.
Terry takes predictable pops at mortgage lenders, Chelsea tractors and modern art, but I don't think we're meant to see this as a thoroughgoing critique of contemporary Britain. Neither do we ever really, until the closing pages, find out much about Charley. She remains a cypher, and there's little to enlighten us about what Terry sees in her – apart from the fact that she's luvvlie.
King does at least endeavour to steer his protagonist away from easy stereotypes. Handy with his fists, and with language as strong as a mug of builder's tea, Terry also has a caring side. He doesn't much like football and even wrote a diary when he was younger. Despite professing to be thick, he knows what synonyms and analogies are. He's portrayed as a thoughtful, even romantic kind of guy, but emotionally constipated.
And as such, he will probably strike a chord with many men, whatever the colour of their collar.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Starfishing by Nicola Monaghan.
You can read more book reviews or buy Blue Collar by Danny King at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Blue Collar by Danny King at Amazon.com.
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