Thursday 25 March 2021

Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a proof copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro - 5/5
"It's a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more ordeal than fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father's death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie's curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects?

The pair part ways, until their paths cross once again, as adults in London. Now Stan is revelling in all that the city has to offer, while Charlie seems to have hit a brick wall. He needs Stan's help, and above all his friendship, but is Stan really there for the man who once showed him the meaning of loyalty?"

Oh this book is just wonderful.

It is a slow paced, character driven novel split into three parts.

In Part One we meet 13 year old Stan Gower from Newford, Surrey. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with 16 year old Charlie Wells. Stan is intrigued by this mysterious boy. 

Stan is reserved and conscientious and is being bullied at school as he is unlike the others. He doesn't "come from money" and is at the school on a scholarship. Confident Charlie helps him to realise that he is just as worthy as anybody else and helps him stand up for himself.

The relationship between them changes when it becomes common knowledge that Charlie is from the Traveller community (I am using this term as it is the one that is used in the book). His bullies use this as another target for Stan and his mother isn't happy with their friendship. They lose contact.

I really like the polarities between the two boys; Stan only has his mum after his father's death the year before and Charlie with his huge family. But they do have this "common ground" where they aren't accepted.

Part Two is set in 2012 and this time, the story is told from Charlie's point of view. He is now 25 years old and married to Kate. He seems like a shell of his former self, in an unhappy marriage, living in a rented flat in London and disliking his warehouse job. Your heart really does go out to him.

Charlie accidentally reconnects with Stan who is now a journalist. Stan realises that Charlie is the one who needs help now, just like Charlie helped him when he was a teen.

There is a political tone that runs throughout the book, touching on classism, fascism and nationalism and it is very well developed. I have never read a story like this one and I just loved every bit of it.

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