Synopsis (from Amazon):
The Fall of Charlie Dixon follows the eponymous Charlie and his friends as they react to the turbulent events of the Noughties. From 9/11, via the War on Terror and the 7/7 bombings in London, history looms large in their lives. As terrorist attacks overshadow the decade, more and more of Britain’s youth are pulled into the murky world of anger, violence and Islamophobia. When Charlie falls for the girlfriend of the leader of The Defence of The Realm League, he is inexorably drawn into the chaos that ensues. As the League becomes ever more violent, it becomes clear that some won’t survive the decade. Exploring the various trials of adolescent friendship, betrayal and love against the backdrop of the time, The Fall of Charlie Dixon is both a cautionary tale and a black comedy.
This novel is billed as a black comedy and it’s rare to see it pulled off this well when the subject matter involves real-life incidences that are still incredibly raw in the minds and hearts of the entire world. That’s not to say this book is hilarious – far from it – it’s more a sardonic smile at how weak the human spirit can be and how cowardice can lead to the downfall not only of the coward, but those around him.
There’s no getting away from the fact that much of the story is pretty grim. There’s a childhood marred by being easily led and too selfish to stand up for right; a youth wasted by boredom; and tragedies on all sides when the world is apparently falling apart in the wake of terrorist attacks, both in America, and here on British soil.
It’s hard read without thinking back to how one felt during the attacks and the aftermath, and each reader is forced to examine how he or she would have reacted in each situation. I can promise you will shake your head at many of the decisions made by Charlie Dixon, but you will keep reading anyway, because, coward as he is, he is still a likable character, and you will probably find, like I did, that you desperately will him to make good before you reach the final pages.
It’s dark. It’s very dark. But Couldrey manages to ensure it’s never depressing, instead making one appreciate what is good in life and resolving to make things better. And that can only be a good thing.
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite