Set in the world of North London council estates, this book is populated by Congolese gangsters, people-traffickers and displaced people. Ten year old Flambeau is searching for his mother who promised him she’d follow him to London. He befriends Knight, a gangster whose flamboyant sapeur style and love of Congolese Rhumba belie his dangerous existence. Knight and his Scottish girlfriend Eleanor take Flambeau under his wing and Knight knows he can track down Flambeau’s mother through his criminal contacts- but at what personal cost…?
This is Elaine Proctor’s first novel, but her scriptwriter background is evident: the writing is cinematic and very visual; I think it would make a brilliant TV drama. The realistic dialogue and secondary characters all contribute to a very believable, identifiable world. The novel is peppered with references to African music and flashbacks to both Flambeau’s and Knights respective childhoods. This shared heritage and loneliness gives them a familial bond which in turn highlights Knight’s dilemma.
The book is both heart-warming and heart-breaking with gentle humour to counteract the more distressing aspects of the story. I loved it.
Read it if you like edgy, urban tales full of colourful characters and uncomfortable social commentary.
Rhumba was sent to me by Newbooks Magazine.