Review of ‘Five Days of Fog’ by Anna Freeman

This book reminded me of Brighton Rock  except that most of the characters are female and the setting is 1950s London. The story is about a gang called the Cutters (no guessing why…) who are all about stealing, fighting, protection rackets and family loyalty. During the notorious Great Smog of 1952, power struggles are fought within the gang while their ‘queen’ is in prison. The smog represents the hazy morals of some of the characters and also the disorder of postwar London, but unfortunately for me it also represents the way I felt about the book. Did I like it or not? Were the characters realistic enough? Was the ending unsatisfactory or was it heartwarming? I don’t know. It’s all a bit foggy.

The book is well researched, even down to how people used language at the time, but I think that the author focused on the details of the period at the expense of making us care about the characters. Some of them came across as stock film characters, such as Harry, the womanising spiv, and Cissy, the stereotypical dumb blonde. I kept forgetting the name of the main protagonist – Florrie – because she didn’t seem to have much of a character. As the daughter of Ruby (the leader of the gang) she’s torn between her shady upbringing and the wish to better herself, but I never got a sense of who she really was. I wasn’t keen on the relationship between Florrie and Ted. They’re cousins in their late teens. I don’t know when marrying your cousin stopped being a usual thing in British society, but I’m thinking that the 50s seems a bit late for that? In any case, I don’t see why the author had to have a romance between cousins in this book.

I did like the setting of the story and how it felt to be in the Great Smog. I could imagine this working well as a TV drama. I just think the rest of it didn’t work for me.

Thank you to the Orion Publishing Group, who provided a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Five Days of Fog will be published on November 15th under the W&N imprint.

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