SHE’S ELECTRIC novel review by Tim Woods
It means a lot when a fellow writer appreciates your work and even more so when they take the time to write a review of your book which shows a deep understanding of what you were trying to achieve. Huge thanks to author and SHE’S ELECTRIC supporter TIM WOODS who has nailed it with this insightful piece of writing…
Book review: She’s Electric – A Britpop Love Story… sort of
By Tim Woods
There are surprisingly few Britpop-themed novels. There are books – everything from autobiographies to in-depth analyses to hatchet jobs – but not many novels. Given the movement’s cultural dominance of the 1990s and its enduring popularity and significance, this seems a missed opportunity.
Thankfully, the few (currently) out there includes She’s Electric. A rich seam of Nineties nostalgia runs through this book’s core, capturing everything that made the era so memorable: the drugs, the clothes, the football, the sex, the drink. Despite the Oasis-nodding title, this is a novel about far more than music.
The story follows the lives of four lads who meet at university, share the early days of adulthood then go their separate ways. Reunited for a cocaine-and-lager-fuelled weekend, they set about recreating the hedonism of their youth – with mixed results. At first, the premise may seem a little worn – four blokes talking about drugs and music over pints – but it works extremely well because it’s written with a keen eye for, and understanding of, the nuances that make up the young British male.
In fact, while the blurb might suggests this is a typical boy-chases-girl story, it is the friendships between the four lead characters that provide the main focus. Seen through the eyes of Danny, the book quickly reveals their characters (another strong point is how it makes four essentially similar men quite distinct from each other) then more gradually reveals the back stories that made them who they are. The pace is unhurried, so by the time we learn, for instance, what makes Scotsman McKinley the troublemaker he is, we care enough to sympathise.
In its early chapters, the writing style reminded me of Trainspotting and the early Irvine Welsh canon (i.e. before he made Begbie a fucking sculptor). At times shocking, consistently vulgar, and with dialogue peppered with swearwords, it’s not a book for sensitive souls. And some of the scenes in the book – a DIY porno, the mocking of the gang’s gay friends, the often dismissive descriptions of women – seem sharply out of step with the sexual politics of today. But this is a Nineties novel. Things were very different back then, the heyday of FHM and Loaded, and there’s no point pretending otherwise. These young men wear their New Lad badges proudly on the sleeves of their Ben Sherman shirts.
I learnt about this book via the thriving Britpop Twitter community, and read it partly as research for my own novel. The first few pages were turned with trepidation, fearing my own efforts would mimic it too closely – fears not assuaged by the use of Britpop tracks as chapter titles (OK, it probably wasn’t my most original idea).
But I needn’t have worried: this is a very different book. It delves into the seedier, E- and coke-laced corners of nineties Britain and is the perfect guide to the era for those who want to find out what the fuss was about, or relive their own decadent youth. It’s equally worth the time of those seeking a considered, often delicate, exploration of the complexities of male companionship. And if you simply want a highly entertaining read with a cracking soundtrack, well, it works for that too.