Paperback review: Up the Junction, By Neil Dunn


Nell Dunn's Up the Junction, a set of loosely linked vignettes of working-class London, caught a cultural mood when it was first published in 1963.

But this is no straightforward swinging-Sixties romp: Dunn's narrator is only half in love with the bright lights of the city, and ultimately more interested in documenting the harsh realities of poverty and back-street abortions in the Battersea slums. What's striking at this distance is not so much Dunn's frank depiction of female promiscuity – which caused quite a stir at the time – but her distinctive, pared-down style: the sketches are dialogue-heavy, interspersed with lyrics from pop songs and the odd potent descriptive phrase: "Great gusts of black smoke blow sideways out of the four chimneys of Fulham gasworks … the sky splits and black rain bounces off the river."