I did not know what to expect when I started reading „East of Acre Lane” as it is described as 'Urban fiction'. I like general fiction and I feel that all those other genres are invented for books that are just not good enough to be 'general fiction', so they are given their own little category in which they can shine. I needn't have worried about „East of Acre Lane” as it's an effort strong enough to stand alongside other books on the 'general fiction' shelf.
It's like Zadie Smith but rough and ghetto. I love reading about places I know and Brixton is just round the corner from me. The local flavour is probably the main strength of the book, it brings this little Jamaica in the middle of London to life. One of the newspapers (was it the Guardian?) named Alex Wheatle the Brixton Bard and it's a title well deserved. Brixton is one lucky district to have Wheatle as its chronicler. You can really see, feel, hear and smell Brixton on every page. It's not an easy job to describe a district believably and I couldn't help but compare East of Acre Lane to 'Camberwell Beauty', which was supposedly set in Brixton's closest neighbour – Camberwell, but could as well be anywhere else if you ask me.
Wheatle's narrative bears resemblance to oral tradition of storytelling. It reads like a tale or one long reggae song. In fact this book IS like a reagge song. It talks about troubles and hardships and doesn't mince words but there is some enchanting sweetness in it, too.
I thought the social commentary inserted in dialogues and the narrative was at times a bit intrusive but that really is my only complaint.
So that's it, ladies and gentlemen. I managed to write another (longish) review without mentioning the plot of the book at all. Because my belief is this: if you want to know the plot, read the bloody book!