The Longest Fight – Emily Bullock
The Longest Fight is the compelling and heart-wrenching debut novel from Emily Bullock.
Set in post-war London, the novel centres on former boxer Jack Munday and his sister Pearl. Jack has always been down on his luck, a former boxer who became injured, he is hoping to turn his and Pearl’s lives around as a boxing manager. He believes his protégé Frank will bring him the fame and fortune he was destined for but there’s trouble brewing.
The novel flicks between Jack’s childhood and his current life. Through flashbacks we learn that Jack suffered abuse at the hands of his father throughout his childhood which has had a lasting effect on him. As part of a large family he couldn’t even seek solace in his mother who was tired and drawn from looking after the family and his brothers became mini versions of their father. It’s not until Jack meets Rosie that he is able to see life in a new and exciting light.
I have to say this was the narrative strand of the novel I loved most. Jack and Rosie are inseparable and their love for each other has no limits. However the unmarried pair’s relationship is tested when Rosie becomes pregnant. As the book is set during a time when this was considered shameful, Rosie moves into the house Jack shares with his mother and she takes it upon herself to bring up the young lovers’ child. We eventually learn who this baby is years later but because it’s so pivotal to the plot I won’t spoil the surprise!
The novel really took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and I really enjoyed it. Bullock’s characterisation is sublime and each character is wonderfully individual. The setting of the seedy and dark side of London added real grit to it. An astonishing debut from an author whose star – I am sure – is set to rise.