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Books Editorial

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Glen James Brown, Parthian

This ambitious debut novel from Durham born author Glen James Brown is set on Teesside and focuses on the Burn council estate, which is in the process of being torn down in the name of regeneration. Each chapter focuses on a different inhabitant of the estate, over a range of time periods, from a woman dying of cancer, to a youth having his eyes opened by acid house culture, to the local hairdresser who likes a flutter on the dogs a little bit too much. Their stories read like novellas in their own right, but are all interlinked, not only by the protagonists’ relationships to each other but by the mythical figure of Peg Powler, a kind of water hag who is said to inhabit the River Tees as well as the waterworks that connect all of the houses in the area (careful using the toilet when she’s around). This particular device lends a mythic quality to these riveting tales in which we follow working class folk who are trying to find their position in the world, not just physically – the sense of place is continually evoked – but spiritually, too.