Thugs Like Us follows Jimmy, a punk teenager in ’70s Britain, growing up in a place where the job prospects seem to be either the Dole or the Army. The book feels almost like a snapshot of his life, as he parties with his friends, sets his eyes on various girls and deals with his brother’s return from the Army.
Check out a much better synopsis on the book’s Goodreads page here.
Everything about the book feels real. It sounds like an odd thing to say, but the voice of the narrator, along with his day-to-day antics, just makes it feel like what happens here could happen anywhere. Maybe because it’s based on a true story. Or maybe because it feels like it reflects life in ’70s Britain (or at least the things I know about it from films, books and my parents).
Throughout, there’s the sense of something bigger coming. The sea is mentioned often, and although at times it feels like the metaphor is leaning a little towards being heavy-handed, the use of it does make sense, especially near the end. Plus, well, anyone who lives near the sea knows how much it can almost bury itself inside you. It does, at times, feel like a constant presence, and I think the use of it works really well here.
Along with that, the style really adds to the overall feel of it. We’re told things from Jimmy’s first person perspective, and it means that we get glimpses of a lot of different things which are not always explained or returned to. It works. Again, it adds to the overall reality of the novel. How many things do we see in real life that we never get explained? How many times do we see our parents mess up, only to be left with no reasoning or explanation?
As well as these moments of reality, we also see a blurring between what is real and what isn’t, especially when Jimmy and his friends take various drugs. These moments stand out simply for what they show about Jimmy. It feels like, at those points, we get a real sense of who he is, a real idea of who he is beneath everything else.
The pacing matches the story and although at times it can feel quite fast, it feels like that’s just the way things happen to the main character. Nothing stands still for too long, especially when things are set in motion. And, to be honest, it’s just one of those books that leave you wanting more, leave you wanting to find out what happens to Jimmy next and where he might end up. The ending is almost bittersweet, and it’s handled in that same sort of no-idea-where-he’s-going attitude that carries the novel.
It’s a great book, well worth picking up and very difficult to actually put down.
So head over to Amazon and grab a copy. You won’t regret it.
Favourite Line: “If it’s good enough for Captain Sensible, it’s good enough for me.”