Soho 4AM – The Debut Novel By Nuala Casey – A Review

soho 4am nuala casey review

Last week Nuala Casey’s debut novel, Soho 4AM, landed on my desk – the latest publication from Quercus books.

Soho 4AM features four characters whose lives intertwine in the seedy backstreets and buzzing offices of London’s most notorious district, although it does follow the characters around as they journey between the familiar sights both north and south of the river – that’s probably a good thing, as I’m not sure that any reader could handle a relentless and unwavering look at Soho for 363 pages! The stories are full of triumph and tragedy, love and loss, and everything comes to a crashing, shuddering halt on the morning of the 7th July 2005 – a date that few Londoners will ever be able to forget…

Here’s a short piece by Nuala about one of her favourite places in London, which will give you a feel for her writing style:

..Nicely fed and watered, if I was in possession of a magic carpet I would fly across the river and land on the soft grass of another of my favourite places. But failing that I’ll just hop on the tube to Sloane Square then catch the 137 bus which will deposit me at the gates of Arcadia – or Battersea Park as it’s otherwise known.

I love this place, and when I lived in Battersea I would try to walk here at least every other day. To me it is the best park in London. It doesn’t enclose you like Regents Park or make you feel like you are trespassing on the Queen’s rhododendrons like St James’s, it’s not as wild as Hampstead Heath or as sparse as Hyde Park. It is whatever you want it be – there’s enough green space to run with the kids or the dog, yet there are also secret hideaways like the magical English Country Garden, with its trickling fountains and wisteria-clad trellises. Winter is a particularly beautiful time in the park – the exotic plants get bound up in protective padding to save them from the frost and as you walk towards them they look like the frozen fawns and elves of Narnia. In summer, you can take a boat out onto the glassy lake and eat ice-creams in Le Gondola, the gloriously retro café, or stroll down to the giant Peace Pagoda whose great gold Buddha looks out across the river towards the genteel Georgian houses of Cheyne Walk with a look that says: ‘I’m glad to be on this side.’ Memories blindside me whenever I return to the park – the Pump House Gallery where I almost got married, the benches in the English Country Garden where I sat and wrote a letter to my unborn child, the zoo where the same child aged five whooped with excitement as he fed the pigs and drove a fire engine, the spot by the river where we stood and watched impotently as a beautiful, doomed whale thrashed and blustered to its death in the alien waters of the Thames. It’s a beautiful place and whenever I leave, I can almost hear the park telling me to hurry back. And I always do….

Soho 4AM is quite the page-turner – I found it an enthralling read, and for once both the male and female characters are fully fleshed out. There is a tendency for female authors to write male characters as archetypes, and for male authors to do the reverse, but fortunately that particular flaw is absent here. Not that I’m implying that any of these people are particularly likeable – they are denizens of Soho after all…

You can pick up Soho 4AM in all the usual places, including Amazon. I think that it’s probably the ideal holiday read if you’re sunning yourself on a far away beach but feeling a bit homesick for the Big Smoke.