Olive moans endlessly about her life, the "white bitch" who manages the shop, her mum and, after her shot-gun wedding, her husband. Vivien paints vivid cameos of school life, trips to the youth-club, the disco and the pub. Levy's dialogue craftily conveys the unbreakable rules of each youth subculture. These scenes, full of swearing and adolescent embarrassment, move into sharper focus when a racist incident explodes into violence. Rose Charles, Olive and Vivien's mother, does not believe that she or her family are black. "You're not white and you're not black - you're you," she says to her daughters whenever the issue is raised. Fierce Olive refuses to laugh at racist jokes, while fair-skinned Vivien would do "whatever was required". But in an England full of racial hatred - obscene graffiti on the council estate, fights in the pub and "Neanderthal Man" downstairs selling the National Front newspaper - Vivien learns that she's not just different, but black.
The cultural differences that arise between the sisters are reflected in their wildly differing accounts of the same events, and, as the book progresses, the interweaving narratives begin to throw up unexpected subtleties and nuances. Never Far From Nowhere is as much about the painful, messy reality of family life - too much envy, too little love - as it is about race and identity. In this lively, crisp, raw voice, young black Londoners may have found their Roddy Doyle.Reuse content