Jerusalem by Patrick Neate

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Jerusalem by Patrick Neate

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
Reviewed by Chris Bradshaw
Summary: Jerusalem has plenty to say and says it very well. Examining tricky concepts of identity, race and colonialism without sounding preaching or hectoring is an impressive feat and one that Patrick Neate has pulled off in very entertaining fashion.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Fig Tree
ISBN: 978-1905490417

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With cricket's so-called Barmy Army and their murderously boorish renditions of Jerusalem, the rise of the BNP and the renewed media focus on immigration, the question of British national identity has rarely been more in the spotlight. Patrick Neate's timely new novel Jerusalem, the third in a loosely fitting trilogy, tackles the spiky issues of identity, race and the impact of colonialism in this entertaining yet in some ways frustrating book.

Jerusalem comprises three interlinked stories, focussing on three generations of Britons, all of whom in some way have a relationship with Africa. The central (and arguably the most compelling) character is Preston '2p' Pinner, the thoroughly middle class creator of Authenticity TM a cultural consultancy that acts as a kind of arbiter of cool, harbinger of taste and all round Shoreditch wannabe.

2p's promotion of a faceless young rapper called Nobody and his hit single Jerusalem becomes intertwined with his father's career as a Foreign Office minister. Pinner senior is the archetypal political drone, light on idealism but on the look out for the main chance. When a British businessman is arrested in the rapidly failing state of Zambawi (think the worst excesses of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe) it would appear that the main chance has arrived. Needless to say things don't work out entirely as planned.

The third, and least successful, strand features diary extracts from a British officer serving in Africa during the Boer War, highlighting the barbarity and cruelty he sees there.

Neate uses this tripartite framework to shine a light on Britain's colonial legacy, both at the sharp end in Africa and at home. He mostly hits the target with his choice of uncomfortable truths. The vacuous Hoxtonites and the in it for themselves politicians are easy enough prey, the NGO workers less so, but all are rightly taken to task. His recounting of an illegal immigration inspired tabloid frenzy certainly rings true, as does the depiction of life in a troubled land like Zambawi.

Where Jerusalem slightly falls down (and it is only slightly) are the Boer War interludes. Told in the form of a series of diary entries they would be perfectly fine as a standalone, they just don't quite match the other strands of the book.

This is a minor quibble though. Jerusalem has plenty to say and says it very well. Examining tricky concepts of identity, race and colonialism without sounding preaching or hectoring is an impressive feat and one that Patrick Neate has pulled off in very entertaining fashion.

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

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Wonga Coup by Adam Roberts.

Buy Jerusalem by Patrick Neate at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jerusalem by Patrick Neate at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Jerusalem by Patrick Neate at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jerusalem by Patrick Neate at Amazon.com.

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