Martin Luther King said that “riots are the language of the unheard”. Developed from Slovo’s successful 2011 verbatim play The Riots at the Tricycle theatre, this readable novel offers multiple voices and a wholly convincing and gripping anatomy of how a London riot happens. It is a scorching summer, and on a fictional South London estate a series of incidents involving the police trigger rioting. We follow the stories of Cathy and her family and friends, who are resident on the estate; Peter, the Home Secretary; and Joshua, the brand new head of the Metropolitan Police. Politics, people and police all collide over ten days, and things may not be what they seem.
Ten Days reads like a thriller, and is more complex and nuanced than you might expect, giving genuine insights into the challenges and motivations of the characters. Slovo deals fearlessly with issues of class, race, poverty and power. The plot rolls out relentlessly, leaving the reader desperate to find out what happens to key characters. Slovo thanks senior police officers, among others, in her acknowledgements and certainly the account of the police experience feels authentic.
It is a properly London novel, and a worthwhile addition to the literature of London disorder and violence. This may be why it has been chosen for London Cityread 2016 (http://www.cityread.london/ten-days/). I stayed up far too late finishing it and suffered the next day as a result, but it was worth it.
Review by Bethan