Kerry Hudson - Thirst (4 stars)

A fizzing, breathless love story from a terrifically talented storyteller

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Kerry Hudson - Thirst

(Chatto & Windus)

It’s been two years since Kerry Hudson’s fantastic debut – the epically named Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma – shook readers and critics from the cushy, Booker-induced, middle-class coma of the preceding years. And her second book, Thirst, delivers on the promise of that wonderful first novel, giving us another booze-soaked, sex-stained, bittersweet tale of love and tragic disappointment.

This time, Hudson swaps grey Aberdeen and faded Great Yarmouth for greasy Dalston and isolated Siberia. Alena, a young Russian woman, is shoplifting and sleeping rough in London when she meets south London lad Dave, who’s working as a security guard at a posh shop on Bond Street. They’re lost souls, drawn to one another like magnets. But as they fall in love, they struggle to come to terms with the dark secrets they’re hiding from each other.

Thirst alternates between Dave and Alena’s unfolding love story and flashbacks to their murky histories, and it’s a testament to Hudson’s stellar writing that these different plot strands sit so snugly and compellingly together. As she proved with Tony Hogan, she’s a master at creating strong, authentic voices, and this book fizzes with the thronging sounds of east London in the summer and the bustling streets of an unknown Siberian town.

It’s billed as a ‘will-they-won’t-they love story’, but Thirst is much more terrifying than that pithy jacket description suggests. In Dave and Alena, Hudson has created two warm but gut-wrenching characters who are by no means guaranteed a happy ending, and the scarier aspects of their individual tales resonate just as much as their romance.

As the last few chapters crescendo into a breathless, sob-inducing finale, Hudson marks herself out once again as a terrifically talented storyteller who, luckily for us, is here to stay.

Kerry Hudson & Simon Van Booy

Following last year’s acclaimed debut novel, fearsomely-talented Scottish author Kerry Hudson presents Thirst, the gorgeous story of a life-affirming love affair that crosses borders – both linguistic and cultural. Brooklyn-based Simon Van Booy is a winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He joins us…

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