Review of ‘These Walls Were Never Really There’ by Bryan Blears

As a piece of social realism, this book is impressive. As a travelogue, it’s very observant. As a fictional novel, I’m not sure it really works. It reads more like a memoir and I felt that the plot was quite vague.

The book is narrated by Cameron, a young man who ends up homeless in Manchester. Eventually he goes travelling on very little money, relying on hitchhiking and the kindness of strangers to reach Europe, even as far as the Syrian border. He acquires a travelling companion and fellow Englishman, Jacob, with whom he becomes close although they are different kinds of people.

I felt more engaged with the first part of the book, which is a gritty and compassionate exploration of homelessness. The rest of the book, which included travel through quite a number of countries, didn’t grip me as much. Although the text is well-written and has some interesting imagery, there was a lot of telling rather than showing, particularly in the earlier chapters.

Considering this is a debut novel, it’s a worthwhile read. The content is grim at times but will make you think.

Published in 2022.

Part of The Write Reads blog tour. Thank you to the author and The Write Reads for the e-copy of the book.

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