NEW FICTION – ‘What was Promised’ by Tobias Hill

NEW FICTION – ‘What was Promised’ by Tobias Hill

what was promisedThis beautifully written and engaging novel spans the latter half of the twentieth century, capturing the lives and fortunes of three distinct families in the East End of London. Starting in 1948, in a city ravaged by the Blitz, children play on bomb sites whilst their parents strive to make a living in the markets.

All are new to the city; Sally and Dora are Jewish refugees from Danzig, whilst Clarence and Bernadette have travelled thousands of miles from the Caribbean to the ‘mother country’. The third family, the Lockharts, have come from Birmingham to escape a family feud. Michael Lockhart cuts a sinister figure, disabled by a stroke that has left him with a disfigured face, and there are hints of his violent character.

Unlike the other men making their living as costers in the markets, Michael moves into more illegal activities. It is this which brings about a shock conclusion to the first section of the novel.

The second and third sections, set at twenty year intervals (1968 and 1988), are more character orientated, deftly taking the reader backwards and forwards in time and out of the city. Hill skillfully uses collisions between the characters, both accidental and deliberate, to reveal more about them via their relationships between each other.

Love, belonging, identity and the concept of ‘home’ are the main themes in this engrossing novel of a city and its people during a time of great change.

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