Today, I am back with another review of a book that is currently on this year’s Booker Prize long-list, Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze.

The shortlist for the Booker Prize shortlist is quickly approaching and I’ve only got a few reviews left to post and including this one! Gabriel Krauze’s dazzling new debut novel, Who They Was. But first, what is it about? Here is the synopsis:

This life is like being in an ocean. Some people keep swimming towards the bottom. Some people touch the bottom with one foot, or even both, and then push themselves off it to get back up to the top, where you can breathe. Others get to the bottom and decide they want to stay there. I don’t want to get to the bottom because I’m already drowning.

This is a story of a London you won’t find in any guidebooks.
This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys too eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way.

This is a story of reputations made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost.

This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police stations and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal.
This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fear and the hope.
This is about what’s left behind.

At first, it took me a long time to get into this novel because of the style of voice in the novel but once I was a good couple of pages into it, it all clicked into place and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t love it but I think it’s one of the books on the long-list that has grown on me more and more since reading it. I can’t stop thinking about it. It was the same with Burnt Sugar but this one is different, it’s growing on me more and more.

This novel has been described as “auto-fiction” where memoir meets fiction. In some of my reviews on this year’s Booker long-list, I said that some books could have taken more risks, be more creative for me in telling a story we heard before and Krauze breaks the mould and it is high innovative and creative. He is a highly talented writer and it felt very atmospheric and claustrophobic, as if you are right there in the beating heart of London.

As I’ve said, this is a hugely talented writer and it’s growing on me more and more. It’s a fresh and exciting new perspective in fiction and it’s hugely needed and for me, this is the exact book that should be on a prize list in 2020. There are so many layers and layers in the novel that I think I need to re-read it again very soon. I’ve been saying it all the way through this review but I can’t stop thinking about this book.

I think this could be a very big contender in this year’s Booker Prize as it is the book that should be on the Booker long-list/shortlist. But only time will tell…

With the style and voice of this book, I think this would make a remarkable audiobook which Krauze reads himself!

A big thank you to Matt at 4th Estate for my proof copy! Have you read Who They Was? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,


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