Who They Was

Gabriel Krauze. Bloomsbury, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63557-766-2
Krauze’s autobiographical debut sketches an explosive, episodic image of a young British man’s double life as college student and armed robber. At 17, Gabriel Krauze, known to friends as Snoopz, leaves his Polish immigrant parents and twin brother behind to live in the rough public housing of South Kilburn, London, in the early 2000s. He spends his days getting high and mugging people (sometimes “just to break the boredom”), and makes insightful comments in English class (on Romeo and Juliet: “Revenge is the purest instinct whether you like it or not”). The summer before his second year, he is placed on house arrest for assault. Snoopz drifts through the days “bunning cro” (smoking weed) and breaking his house arrest to continue attacking people. A stint in prison for violating his probation does little to change his ways, and the tinges of regret that eventually appear go nowhere. At times the author’s swagger makes the reader feel the real-life material hasn’t been fully sublimated, but the prose sizzles as Snoopz’s frantic narration (“I swear I’m gonna frass out and Mazey says swear down fam?”) blends with arresting lyrical flourishes (“I watch dawn’s pink fingers claw the sky open”). This tour through a hard-knock life is compulsively readable. Agent: Jo Unwin, Jo Unwin Literary Agency. (Jun.)
Reviewed on : 12/17/2020
Release date: 06/22/2021
Genre: Fiction
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