Reviewed by Shaun O'Keefe
The infamous Canterbury Estate in Bradford, a hotbed of crime, drink and drugs, was a law unto itself in the ’70s. So when one of their own was wronged in any way, the community always had its own way of dealing with it.
The first title in a series of gritty family sagas, Our Vinnie accounts the dramatic true story of a brother’s determination to avenge his younger sister’s rape. Josie was just 11 when her Vinnie, then 14, was taken away to a detention centre. Distraught by his absence and left alone with indifferent parents, when she escapes from one of their rows she naively enters the house of a neighbour, Melvin, who – horrifically – leads her upstairs and overpowers her.
Convinced by her friend Carol, Josie tells her sister Lyndsey about the rape but, with Vinnie out of the picture, Lyndsey uses the information for her own ends. When Vinnie returns, hardened by years inside the system, his outrage on discovering the truth is severe. And with new abuses continually coming to light, a cataclysmic series of violent events begins to spiral out of control…
First of all I would like to thank Sharon for sending me this book to review, and for allowing me to feature one of my reviews on her blog for the second time. I blog at www.bookaddictshaun.co.uk.
Our Vinnie immediately caught my eye as it is just the sort of book that I love to read. It is the first in a series of three books written by Julie Shaw and feature her own family members. The stories are described by Julie as a tribute to her parents, and are all based on truth although some identities and facts have been changed to protect the innocent. The book reads like a fiction story, but I feel the emotional connection to the characters is stronger given that it is based on true events, and there are some shocking moments throughout the book which again are all the more shocking because they are true.
The book is very Northern, instantly recognisable to me with the humour that I know and love. It's an introduction to a family that might be totally different if their circumstances were better. June and Jock are the parents, probably happy when they got married they are both now set in their ways, constantly arguing with each other and trying to bring up their children Vinnie and Josie, elder daughter Lyndsey lives with her partner and children and is making a bit of a mess of her own life.
Vinnie is a right little tearaway but from the very beginning we see a softer side to him, and a vulnerability especially when he goes one step too far and finds himself being sent to a reformed school. As he often takes care of his sister, and looks out for his nieces and nephew the prospect of being away from them is a scary one, but he vows to be back with them soon. Unfortunately he hasn't been gone long before Josie's life is changed forever, and once Vinnie returns all hell is about to break loose.
As always I am wary of how much of the plot to reveal. Julie handles the subjects in the book rather sensitively, never in a sensationalist way at times it is subtle but still incredibly hard hitting. The book is full of bad language, there's probably ten F words on every single page, this doesn't bother me and is realistic language for the setting. The book moves at a nice pace as we follow Vinnie moving down to Brighton and watch his family try and carry on as normal. I found myself really caring for the characters, and wanting to see how things would end up for them. An Epilogue closes it all up nicely, and I'm still thinking about the characters now. Even today I still think some people are victims of circumstance and when will it ever change? Yes some people are born evil but some are just dealt a bad hand.
My Uncle Charlie and My Mam Shirley are the other two books in the series, I am very fortunate to have received those also and will be reviewing the two of them over on my blog in the New Year. Thanks again to Sharon for the opportunity to review this book.
I'd like to thank Virginia at Harper Collins for sending me these books and Shaun for offering to review them as I wasn't able to fit them into my schedule.