Book review – An extreme warning

Twentytwelve by Andrew Keogh
published by Adonis &Abbey at £12.99
ISBN: 1-905068-12-3

Zimbabweans are all too familiar with the nature and effects of racial conflict. In a powerful and fast moving first novel Andrew Keogh, an English lawyer, takes disturbing trends both wi

thin Britain and in the wider world to a terrifying extreme. Twentytwelve is set in a Britain of the near future. The conflict sometimes called the war of the civilisations has resulted in the collapse of the global economy. The hatred which that conflict, and apparently endless terrorist outrages, have brought about has resulted in Britain turning its back on democracy and human rights norms and collapsing into fascism and the most rabid state racism imaginable. The author pulls no punches in his portrayal of a savage neo-nazi regime ruling through violence and fear. The themes are particularly challenging to a person of mixed race, such as this reviewer.
The somewhat diffident hero of the story is Charlie Gilbert, a white schoolteacher living and working in an ethnically cleansed South London. The non-white population have by this time either fled overseas or been killed or incarcerated as slave labourers. Charlie is a widower. He has a secret: his dead wife was black and they had a daughter, Natalie, who is now 10 and lives hidden away in the country with Charlie’s elderly mother. Of course, discovery of his mixed race daughter by the authorities would have unthinkable consequences for her and for Charlie and his mother. The headmaster of Charlie’s school, the first of a procession of fascist psychopaths, seeks to incorporate the apolitical Charlie into the fascist elite. Charlie pretends to go along with this so as to buy time but when Cameron, a vile character and Charlie’s potential nemesis, seeks to involve him in the planned manhunt and killing of a member of an ethnic minority as an initiation rite, Charlie decides it is time to run.
Charlie heads out to collect his daughter and mother and sets out west towards Wales and ultimately Ireland, the last remaining outpost of democracy in Europe. Cameron sets out in pursuit, taking Charlie’s girlfriend Jill with him as a hostage and plaything. Charlie and his family are captured and sent to a slave labour camp, a reopened coalmine. The chapters set in the slave labour camp are among the most powerful and harrowing in the novel.
The title of Twentytwelve and some of the themes in the novel contain echoes of George Orwell’s great dystopia 1984. Orwell wrote 1984 at the beginning of the cold war, a phenomenon that dominated the lives of that generation. The fear that the war of the civilisations will be the cold war for the upcoming generation, a long lasting conflict dominating international politics, seems well founded. Twentytwelve is an extreme warning as to the dangers of our times but above all it is a book I found hard to put down. The drama never lets up. All in all, Twentytwelve is both a good read and food for thought. – By Alessandra Williams

Post published in: Arts

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