Book Review of ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ by Tanya Landman

The image shows the front cover of 'The BAttle of Cable Street' by Tanya Landman

Political tensions are heightening on the streets of Stepney, and as Oswald Mosley comes to power, Elsie begins to see friendships torn apart … Award-winning author Tanya Landman explores the rise of antisemitic fascism in 1930s London in this gripping new story.

Life has always been tough on the streets of Stepney, where Elsie and her brother Mikey are growing up in a vermin-infested slum nicknamed “Paradise”.

But the rise of antisemitic fascist Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts in the 1930s stirs up trouble between families who have lived closely together for years, and Elsie sees friendships torn apart.

When Elsie and Mikey attend a Mosley rally, intending to heckle and cause trouble, they soon see how dangerous the situation has become, but out in the streets the fascists find that people will stand and fight against them and against hatred in what becomes the dramatic Battle of Cable Street.

My Review

At 120 pages, this will be a less daunting read for many teens than other books in the school library, but as with other Barrington Stoke novels, there’s an awful lot of story packed into this slim volume. Landman’s depiction of the East End of London is bleak, and yet her characters are strong and distinctive. Elsie and Mickey are likeable characters: curious, plucky and determined to stand up for what is right. We follow them as they learn about the Blackshirts, attend one of Mosley’s rallys, and help to defend their friends and neighbours in the Battle of Cable Street. As their understanding of the developing situation grows, they take the reader with them towards the novel’s triumphant climax.

I knew very little about Britain’s pre-war fascist uprisings before reading this book, and found its contents both startling and reassuring in equal measure. The subject matter of this novel explores topics covered in the current GCSE History curriculum, and it would be an ideal read for those students wishing to visualise the complicated events in the lead-up to the Second World War: the rise of fascism across Europe and how people responded to the politics of the day. Although the reading age of this novel may be low enough to be accessible to a less-confident reader, the subject matter is probably too harrowing for a younger reader.

‘The Battle of Cable Street’ is well-written and fast-paced. I particularly recommend it for teens with an interest in British history and politics.

The image shows the front cover of 'The Battle of Cable Steet' by Tanya Landman

‘The Battle of Cable Street’ will be published on 2nd June 2022.

Many thanks to NetGalley UK, Barrington Stoke and Tanya Landman for this ARC in return for my honest review.

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