Once Upon a Time in England, By Helen Walsh

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The Independent Culture

Racial tensions simmer on a tough northern estate, as local lad Robbie and Malaysian Tamil nurse Susheela strive to defend their bond, and family, against violence and despair. Sadly, Helen Walsh's scenario sounds as relevant today as in the mid-1970s, when her gallopingly readable second novel begins.

The Warrington travails of Robbie and "Sheila" after a "night of horror" cascade down the generations. In trendy late-1980s Manchester, son Vinnie has emerged onto a brighter stage of art and ambition – but still has old battles to fight. Walsh draws two eras in bold colours, enriched by the beleagured love that pulses so movingly through her swift-running saga.