What Da Cover Says: Paul, ex-tube driver and drinking partner of legendary Union leader Bob Crowe turns up at Essex University in the early 1980s haunted by the death of his colleague on the tracks.
Thrown into the radical mix of Student Union life and the academic intoxication of post-modern theory taught by the likes of Ernesto Laclau, Jaques Derrida and a very young Slavoj Zizek, Paul befriends the novel’s unnamed narrator.
What follows is a riotous attempt to put the 20th Century to bed, as seen through the eyes of the foot soldiers of British history. From miners’ strikes to IRA collection buckets, ANC demonstrations and some very dodgy handling of Soviet money, Our Struggle climaxes with a devastating denouement in modern day Kurdistan.
Holloway’s epic tale asks the big questions: does what we think, what we say, and what we do ever match up? Or are we destined to fall short of the ideals we think we cherish?
What I Says: I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I wasn’t even sure if it was fiction or non-fiction…having finished the book I’m still not 100% sure of the answer to that question as it all feels so real, maybe it is some kind of Anti-Meta-fiction? There was one constant feeling I had whilst reading this, music, whilst there are some bands and songs are mentioned that is not the theme of the book, the idea of music I got was from the structure, it comes across as some kind of punk/jazz infusion, you would be happy and chill like listening to a piece of Jazz until quite unexpectedly you realise that the mood has changed and that punk rage suddenly kicks off, you really do feel the anger of the characters. Very impressive writing skill here.
The book follows an unknown narrator as he witnesses the life of Paul, a train driver who is desperate to not be like his dad, but a tragic death on the lines changes all that, he leaves his job and goes to university and fully immerses himself…and the reader…in the politics and student union activities of the day. The story continues with his life after that, including when the narrator loses contact with Paul, the writing style changes at this point, it now feels like a research project which is one of the ways that it makes it all feel so real. One favourite part of this book was the strikes that turn into a battle with the police, wonderful build up with the narration mixed with chants, I could almost feel I was there, the mounting tension was palpable, the inclusion of the chants was powerful and right in the middle of the riot there is one surreal beautiful moment in an old lady’s garden, loved it.
This is one of those books where the readers are going to have differing ideas on what it is about, for me it is about Paul trying to live and behave how he thinks a person should live (complete opposite of his dad) and it doesn’t matter how you behave you’ll never live up to your expectations. The book takes things one step further and discusses how those actions affects your children and that you’ll always be wondering if you did things right.
This epic book was good fun, I feel like I have been taken on a journey through 1980’s Britain…quite bizarre that things feel exactly the same now in 2022, that same pressure in our lives is with us today. The book is very poetic and all builds up to a very interesting and carefully constructed ending. You gotta have a read of this book as you’ll be missing out otherwise.