Book Review: The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Title: The 392

Author: Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Genre: Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 188

Rating: A

Recommended?: Yes

I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually loved this book! The concept reminds me of Turbulence by David Szalay by I liked this one better. Thoughtful, satiric, and even suspenseful, it takes an unusual look at what was supposed to be an ordinary day for a diverse group of Londoners.

The story focuses on the daily lives of an assortment of characters riding a bus in swiftly gentrifying Britain. They’re largely a suspicious and xenophobic group of people and are disturbed by a Muslim passenger carrying a strange package and standing near the front of the bus.

The book is told from the alternating viewpoints of different characters on the bus and we see how they look to each other as they go about their days. There’s Natalie, a smart-mouthed pregnant teenager, and Ray, a blind, racist football fan. Natalie’s baby daddy’s brother Boxer is a mild-mannered guy who pretends to be a hood for street cred.

Gloria is a lonely, elderly widow who feels out of place in modern times and wants to end her life. The narrative voices are all distinct and extremely engaging, which is no mean feat considering how many characters the author chooses to tackle.

They’re all very flawed (Ray and the gross masturbating pervert who’s drooling over the bus driver were the only ones who were completely unredeeming) but the book makes it possible to empathize with most of them to some extent. I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work, he has a particularly great ear for dialogue.

I really like stories that have interconnecting narratives and this novel did a particularly good job of utilizing the way these characters judge and misunderstand each other and how distrust and racism affect even their smallest interactions. What starts out as a simple story had me holding my breath as it reached its troubling conclusion.


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