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Neon Roses by Rachel Dawson - Review

Monday, August 14, 2023

I had heard about this book on Twitter (no one is calling it X, are they) where author Lizzie Huxley-Jones had said it was really good. I liked the sound of it so when I had a gift voucher I bought it. I don't generally buy hardbacks but it wasn't too expensive and I did really want to read it. 

The book starts in South Wales in October 1984. The miners' strike is in full swing and Eluned's family is struggling. Her dad is on strike and the family has very little money. Her mum is helping the aid effort for the miners. Eluned works in a shoe shop but there's very little business because no one has got any spare cash. Her sister Mabli is younger, and is going out with a police officer, Graham, who is much older than her and who is poisoning her mind against the strikers. Eluned comes up against him on the picket line one day and dislikes him even more. Eluned is engaged to Lloyd, who is also on strike, and seems to have been with him for a really long time. He's a bit of a lump but she is very fond of him. Eluned is into fashion and stuff, but life really is grinding a bit because of the strike. 

Then members of the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a group you can find out way more about in the film Pride and in other media) arrive in Eluned's village to hand over some funds they've raised. There's a bit of distrust among the miners, but they all generally have a good time. Eluned meets June, a punky lesbian from Birmingham who now lives in a squat in London. She and Eluned kiss, and then when the iconic Pits and Perverts concert happens, Eluned goes up to London for it and has sex with June. She realises she is gay and breaks things off with Lloyd. 

I don't want to spoil too much of the rest of the book but it's a riot through the mid 80s, through the politics of the time, through finding yourself as a person, through falling in love even though you don't really mean to (they have a weird relationship, on both sides). I loved Eluned's obsession with music and fashion. I liked June and how she was despite herself for a lot of the book. It's great and I now want everyone I know to read this! I'm definitely giving it five out of five. 

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