The Longest Fight by Emily Bullock
|The Longest Fight by Emily Bullock|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Steve Shayler|
|Summary: In post-war London Jack Munday hopes to escape his tragic past and live a more luxurious life by managing a successful boxer but tragic pasts always find a way of resurfacing and making life complicated.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 336||Date: February 2014|
|Publisher: Myriad Editions|
Jack Munday is a retired boxer who, even in his prime, wasn’t quite good enough, so now older and wiser Jack hopes to hit the big time as a manager and believes that in Frank he has found a fighter who could get him there. Frank is young, naïve, eager to learn with a lot of talent and Jack discovers him just in time to take him under his wing before any other more established managers could sign him up. The pair make a pretty good team and Frank starts to build up an impressive boxing record and fan base and Jack sees his dreams and hard graft about to reach fruition but things are rarely simple and life, love and shady characters get in the way.
Emily Bullock weaves a vivid post-war London tale that has plenty in the way of love, hope and shattered dreams. The world feels real and smoky and grimy; it's absorbing and rich and is interspersed with moments from Jack's past which are sometimes bright and fresh and jubilant. This creates a great juxtaposition between the Jack we read of and his younger self.
Interestingly Jack goes by slightly differing names at various stages of his life and we experience his youth as John, his gaining independence as Jackie and then his maturation to the Jack we mainly follow in the story; this is a really nice touch and adds an element of real character development.
Although we experience the characters growing and becoming more world-weary I found that it took me quite a while to actually relate to them. I found myself enjoying the world depicted far more in the first half of the story than I actually cared about the people who inhabited it and until the final few chapters, even though I had the full picture about the lead character Jack and what makes him flawed but ultimately honourable, I wasn’t empathetic towards him at all. Jack himself didn’t feel genuine to me until a few revelations came in the final quarter of the story whereas the London he lived in and its dingy boxing gyms and bars felt real from the outset.
Many revelations about Jack's past are only disclosed bit by bit, giving details of his past up to a certain key point and then back to his present life just before we find out too much does help to flesh him out and creates some intrigue about him. Other revelations within the story are pretty obvious and feel a little anti-climactic when actually discovered within the narrative and I think every reader will cotton on to certain events quicker than Jack and be a little put off by the full detailing of what they have already worked out.
This story is a slow burner whose multiple strands come together at the climax and finish off the tale quite satisfyingly. I thoroughly enjoyed the world depicted from the carefree fairgrounds of Jacks youth to the menacing gangster-run clubs of his later years and I also enjoyed the relationship that Jack and Frank built. The Longest Fight is a very immersive read but for me a little flawed on character engagement early on although it does build steadily leaving the reader in possession of all the facts and a lot more feeling towards the characters by the final chapters
The Good Italian by Stephen Burke would be a good choice for someone looking for a historical read with plenty of emotional engagement.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Longest Fight by Emily Bullock at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Longest Fight by Emily Bullock at Amazon.com.
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