Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

I have a confession to make. I am a bad librarian - I judge books by their covers. And their titles. While reading reviews in a professional journal, I couldn't help but be drawn to the title Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My My. First, I LOVE ice cream and thought that surely this was a good sign if those words were in the title. Next, I envisioned a southern love story given the "ma" in the title and the aforementioned theft. Was I ever wrong... at least about the last part. 

Janie Ryan is the daughter of Iris, a Scottish woman, and a mysterious American, whom Iris met when she ran off to London. Now back in the English suburbs, Janie narrates a story of pain and heartache. Tony Hogan is one of Iris' many boyfriends and Janie's new "da." Yet he is abusive and an alcoholic. While Janie is stuck with her mother's life choices, she begins to understand what the true meaning of family is as she watches her Uncle Frankie struggle with a heroin addiction, her grandmother choose bingo over everyone, and desperately seeks the love and affection of anyone. You can't help but feel terrified for her and want to hug her and buy her an ice cream, without the cruel intentions. 

Time and place play an important role in this novel - 1980s England is a cool, happening, and scary place. The language is hilarious and offers a nice respite from the dark narrative and themes. At times it can be a challenge - similar to reading an Irvine Welch book which you have to read aloud to yourself, with a bizarre cockney accent to understand what is being said. But, that's an adventure and fun itself! This book lives up to it's title - enticing and yet pleasantly deceptive.

Want to try another amazingly-titled book that won't disappoint? Try Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness  or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. 

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