by Jo Bloom
Amid the rise of fascism in sixties London, one woman searches for her lost love . . .
Summer, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. But the only address she has for him leads to a dead end.
Determined to make a new life for herself, Vivien convinces Barb, the owner of Oscar’s hair salon in Soho, to give her a job. There, she is swept into the colourful world of the sixties – the music and the fashions, the coffee bars and clubs.
But still, Vivien cannot forget Jack. As she continues to look for him, her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. Then one day Vivien finally spots Jack, but her joy is short-lived when she discovers his secret . . .
Ridley Road is set in the Swinging Sixties, but reveals a much darker side to this era; the rise of anti-Semitic fascism, a subject that hasn’t really been in the public arena.
Vivian moves down to London from Manchester both to find her young man, Jack, with whom she has lost touch. And to escape the sadness of losing her much-loved father.
Finding a job in a hairdresser’s, Vivian also manages to find Jack, but is shocked by what she sees. Jack is embroiled in a Jewish anti-fascist group and is in grave danger. It is very difficult for the two of them to continue their relationship.
I really liked Vivian, shy and naive at first, she grew as the story went on. I was a little perturbed that she took a backseat through the middle of the book when Jack’s story takes over. Jack is not as strong a character on the page as Vivian, but his story is interesting and shocking and that carries him through.
The background of the Sixties is brilliantly evoked. I felt I could see and smell everything that was going on. The hairdresser’s was a masterstroke, a perfect scenario for Vivian to blossom, and the girls that worked there came across really well.
The historical aspect of the book is really interesting and Jo bloom has done her research into the horrible side of Sixties London very well. The rise of the
fascists targeting the Jewish community is something that should be more widely known. I am embarrassed to say I kmew nothing about it. So well done Jo Bloom because this book is not just an immensely readable love story, it is also an important document to a troubled time.