Eddie the Kid by Leo Zeilig
|Eddie the Kid by Leo Zeilig|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Once you've met Eddie, you'll never forget him. Enthralling bloke created by an excellent writer in an affecting novel.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 282||Date: March 2013|
|Publisher: Zero Books|
Eddie Bereskin is arrested in a London anti-war protest in 2002. His parents, Stuart and Jessica, were also anti-war activists back in their day and are still passionate about their socialist values. Indeed, Eddie has inherited their socialist beliefs and genes but being a child from that household comes at a high price; a price that Eddie and his sister Esther continue to pay. There again, being known as 'The Downing Street Tickler' does come with a sort of kudos that he doesn't mind.
Author Leo Zeilig has a pretty impressive sounding day job. He's a senior sociological researcher, expert in African politics and history and biographer of Patrice Lumumba, the executed independence leader and first Congolese prime minister. So what's this to do with a tragi-comedy about a political activist grappling with life in London? Well, it just so happens that Leo was arrested during an anti-war rally… in London… in 2002. Hopefully that's where the parallel also ends as Eddie has some deep problems between the smiles.
It's hard to sum the complex and very real Eddie up as a person. He's funny, sometimes an anti-hero, other times the product of his upbringing but throughout very, very human. We can't help willing him through every set back (including that heart-wrenching shocker) and cheering him through the successes. It's his personality as a magnetic charmer that becomes the covert superglue between our noses and the page. He's the sort of bloke a caring parent would love and understand but with whom the world has a tough time, mainly because the world gave him a tough time first.
Through the diary-like dated episodes we spend time in Eddie's present, his childhood and go back to pre-Eddie days via his parents who were so optimistic as they fell in love before… The bigger picture is gradually revealed reinforcing the fact that our pasts are always there, travelling through life with us. If you cringe at the thought of travelling back and forth rather than chronologically, be not afraid. It's all perfectly understandable and logical so you won't get lost.
Leo Zeilig has a lightness of touch that communicates the dreams and crashes of the Bereskin family without repulsing us. Important (and adult) themes such as domestic violence and mental illness engage us rather than preach or over-dramatise. Indeed, the author's artistry in his mix of Jack-the-lad-Eddie light with the ghosts-of-the-past darkness is masterful. Our emotions are turned in a moment, making us smile, then pausing as a sombre bitterness is added, before charging in with a full blown giggle like the Ann Summers scene where I laughed as heartily as I was touched later by the unbidden memories that attacked Eddie in his grandparents' cellar.
The author's just as good at endowing us with the gift of insight. For instance Eddie thinks his newly separated mother promiscuous, whereas from our adult viewpoint we realise she just wanted to feel loved, even if only in a superficial way. However, this is Eddie's story and he was too young to realise this at the time.
The book is best summed up by two lines of sister Esther's poetry:
In broken promises
The past has made my future.
In the end the more the plights of the Eddies and Esthers of life become known, then, even if for only one at a time, there's the chance that such broken promises will be eradicated by a better future. Yes, I'm an optimist too.
If you enjoyed meeting Eddie then you'll also enjoy bumping into Billy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Eddie the Kid by Leo Zeilig at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Eddie the Kid by Leo Zeilig at Amazon.com.
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