Fiction boxer handsome

Published on January 19th, 2014


Boxer Handsome by Anna Whitwham

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Blurb: Boxing runs in Bobby’s blood. His Irish dad was a boxer. So was his Jewish grandfather. Yanked up by their collars at Clapton Bow Boys Club, taught how to box and stay out of trouble. So Bobby knows he shouldn’t be messing in street brawls a week before his big fight with Connor ‘the Gypsy Boy’, an Irish traveller from around the way. They’re fighting over Theresa: a traveller girl with Connor’s name all over her. But Bobby’s handsome, like his dad; boxer handsome. (Chatto & Windus, January 2014)

Flemmich Webb, The Independent

Whitwham’s writing is as sharp as a one-two combination, short punchy sentences that capture effectively the brooding atmosphere of the East End, the threat of violence at every turn and the savagery of fighting. “Then [he] cracked the bridge of his nose wide open. Skin split. Blood spat. Connor stumbled about headless.” But the book is tender, too, a change of pace that deepens the emotional resonance of the characters.

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David Annand, The Telegraph

“Rich in detail and elegantly written, Boxer Handsome is evidence that Whitwham has considerable talent, not least in her use of clipped repetitive sentences that create a kind of incantatory menace. But it falls down on the matter of violence, as so many macho books do … she fails to deliver the knockout punch.”

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Bella Bathurst, The Guardian

“… a genuinely impressive debut.Boxer Handsome does everything great fiction should, offering up characters who stay with the reader long after the end of the book, giving an almost filmic vision of places and people, and revealing a world that most people will never even think about. If you can’t see what it is that people need from boxing, or why it somehow persists into the 21st century, then read this. Read it, too, for the character of Bobby, loyal and scrupulous and doing his best to make the world anew when everything around him – London, family, tradition, sex, sustenance – conspires to pull him back to a history as old as love or war.”

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Lucie Elven, The Financial Times

“London’s amateur boxing has bloomed in recent years but, beyond the mention of camera phones, Whitwham does not bring the present into her story. It’s all cooked breakfasts and East End boxing club signs painted “Thatcher-blue”.”

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Andrew Tong, Independent on Sunday

“It makes for an unpleasant milieu, if a rather hackneyed one, and though literature should never flinch from portraying society’s ugly side, you do wonder what is achieved by this double-handed and rather two-dimensional characterisation and plot. Even those who get their kicks from a bit of cultural antagonism might hanker after something a bit more sophisticated.”

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