No Mean City by Alexander McArthur
First published in 1935, No Mean City is the story of Johnnie Stark, son of a violent father and a downtrodden mother, the 'Razor King' of Glasgow's pre-war slum underworld, the Gorbals.
This book primarily deals with the poverty in the slums of pre-war Glasgow. I found it to be quite horrendous in places, particularly in the gang mentalities and how difficult it was for people to get into an education or a career which would be good enough to allow them to escape the slums. It made me wonder whether I would be able to better myself in such a situation, and the answer was - probably not.
The lives of all of the inhabitants of this novel just seem so incredibly depressing, and filled with violence and hardship. Very few people have ambitions; many are content to just soldier on with what they have been given.
I didn't find this to be well written, but I think it overcomes this with its brutal and frank social observations.
This is definitely worth a look, particularly if you are familiar with the Glasgow area. I found it interesting to be reading about streets and places I know with a historical slant placed on them, and I also enjoyed the use of Glasgow slang to project pieces of realism. It's harrowing in places, and definitely cutting edge, but I’d recommend it.
17 / 72 books. 24% done!