Book review: Malayan Swing

Malayan Swing

Pete Haynes, London Books

ISBN 9780955185168

An overwhelming sense of foreboding hangs over this taut novel about the travails of Aidan, a mentally ill victim of the community care system.

Thoughtful and eloquent yet outwardly tongue-tied and uncertain, Aidan is released from the relative warmth of a group home into the cold arms of a society which, if it is aware of him at all, views him with disdain, fear, or callous amusement.

From the first days in his sparse new bedsit, wrenched away from any kind of support network and under the less-than-watchful eyes of a disengaged social worker, it is clear that Aidan is heading for a fall.

Desperately lonely, struggling to make ends meet and prey to the bullying whims of the various unsavoury characters who populate his new world, he walks the wet streets of the city looking for comfort and friendship, but finds little of either.

Author Pete Haynes, a one-time social worker, paints a vivid picture of what it is like to be pushed on to the streets as the result of an expedient government policy.

Told through the main character’s inner voice, this is a beautifully written but bleak book, leavened only by the delight of seeing Aidan’s perceptive mind at work. Its message is that British society, and its care system, are both deeply under-qualified for the job of supporting those on its margins.

Peter Mason is the former news editor of Care Weekly

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