Working class voices are not going unnoticed. On Tuesday, Glen James Brown's debut novel Ironopolis was acclaimed as an 'extraordinary novel' in The Morning Star. Reviewer Paul Simon described the Middlesbrough-set book as 'breathtaking in its ambition and delivery.'
Ironopolis is not a book that is easily glossed over. The prose, characters, and scale coalesce into one narrative distinctly different from anything you've read before. Simon identified a key aspect of what makes this novel stand out: the mythical river witch Peg Powler.
Simon writes that this 'does not detract from Brown’s predominant style — Powler is in many respects a metaphor of, and repository for, the community’s historical and present struggles.'
There is a tension between dilapidation and regeneration, old and new tenants, past and future eras, that Simon articulately describes in his review. He describes how the novel's Burn Estate 'is itself now being run down and dismantled to make way for a new housing association, keen to profit from the tenants’ increasing desperation and powerlessness.'
Profit from desperation haunts Ironopolis. Glen's research into the housing crisis of North East England has marked every page with authenticity, which is why this reviewer said it is the 'most accomplished working-class novel of the last few years.'