Thirst by Kerry Hudson

18th Jul 2014

Author Kerry Hudson won our hearts with her stark and moving debut, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, then cemented her place as a For Books’ Sake favourite with the brilliant Womentoring Project. Thirst is her second novel, and tells the story of two underdogs who fall in love, but hold far too many secrets.

Dave was raised on the dodgy, tower block estates of Roehampton, and now works as a security guard in a high-end department store in central London.

His teenage dreams of travelling the world and having adventures seem to have evaporated without a trace, leaving only apathy and contentment to coast through an average life with an average job where he is the butt of everyone’s jokes.

Alena is from Siberia, and moved to London with hopes of making a decent living and sending money back to her mother. However, the women who aids Alena’s move to the UK is not to be trusted, and she becomes trapped in a cruel world of abuse and sexual exploitation.

Dave and Alena meet when Alena is reprimanded in Dave’s department store for attempting to steal a pair of shoes. Alena starts eating Dave’s corned beef and pickle sandwich as he questions her in the stockroom, and from there, one of the great literary love stories begins.

Thirst is a romance between two anti-heroes, two of the most endearing underdogs you will ever have the pleasure to read about.Thirst by Kerry Hudson is a romance between two anti-heroes, two of the most endearing underdogs you will ever have the pleasure to read about. But it’s clear from the first meeting that Dave and Alena are carrying heavy burdens, with hearts full of pain and secrets they never intend to share.

Hudson intersperses their present day love story with the desperately sad backstories of both characters. These are the driving force of the book, and Dave and Alena’s blissfully happy and simple romance peppered with the turbulence and drama of their past creates a pleasurable ebb and flow throughout the book.

Thirst certainly covers some of London’s least trodden ground, and Hudson has captured them beautifully. If you’ve never been to the little right angle of chippies, bookies and offies that cower in the shadow of Roehampton’s tower block flats, you will feel like you have after reading this. London becomes almost a character in itself, and Hudson’s affection for the city she calls home radiates from the pages like sunshine.

Where Tony Hogan may have placed Hudson amongst the best of the gritty, cult writers – “It should do for Aberdeen what Trainspotting did for Edinburgh” – Thirst surely stakes her claim as one Britain’s literary heavyweights.

Less Irvine Welsh and more Zadie Smith this time around, Thirst by Kerry Hudson proves that she can compete with the most mainstream, popular writers of lit fiction whilst telling the stories of people whose voices are too often marginalised.