In the Falling Snow, By Caryl Phillips

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The Independent Culture

This is a disappointingly average offering from Caryl Phillips, and the problem is not his material, which is urgent and enquiring about race relations in this country, but the structure of his story.

Keith has separated from his wife as a result of a fling with a fellow social worker, and when we meet him he is ending an affair with another co-worker, who angrily exposes the relationship to their bosses. Forced to take a sabbatical, Keith spends his time spying on a young Polish woman and arguing with his ex-wife about their son.

Keith isn't an instantly likeable character and part of the reason is that to understand his motives we have to know his background. Cue the laziest method possible: lots of "reporting" on past events that never come to life. Where the book does come alive, though, is in the sections between Keith and his son, Laurie, in which the disparity in their experience of racism illuminates the gulf between father and son: Laurie is far more worried about his contemporaries in gangs than he is about police brutality.