Review of “Ironing” by Navajo

Ironing is a promising debut novella by “Navajo” but the author, whom I think is a male, needs to bone up on his craft so as not to spoil his future fiction with bad writing. The title is catchy and it suggests irony which indeed turns out to be the case as ordinary Londoners face small and large challenges in an uncertain contemporary world. The pseudonym, Navajo, on the other hand, is suspect and might be inappropriate if it is an allusion to the Navajo Nation of North America

The idea for the novel is good. It tells the backstories of ordinary people, riding a London bus, and their families and friends. They are a multi-cultural bunch of different ages, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identities, attitudes to climate change, and political outlooks. While it deals with heavy modern topics, the book is for the most part humorous, with graphic violence sometimes expelling the laughs.

Three teenage girls, the Muslim Royanda, the outspoken Emma, and the thoughtful Ginie are the dominant characters. Like many teenage girls, they think and talk about boys a lot. They conclude that most boys and men occupy wasted spaces. The girls are on a bus to the greyhound races, though the reader never quite understands why.

Another character with boy/ man trouble is the older Caitlan, a single who has finally relented and resorted to the Tinder dating app. After a bad experience, she vows to give herself three strikes before she is swiped out.

Two of the sympathetic males are old political left-wingers, Royanda’s Dad Mr. Huefara, and Emma’s Teacher, Mr. Campbell. Mr. Huefara is worried that his grandchildren will be victims of prejudice and they will lack a support network as children of a Muslim mother and a non-Muslim Dad. Mr. Campbell is concerned about losing his job because his Headteacher dislikes his liberal political activity. He is under police surveillance for possible terrorist links even though the police know he has none.

While it addresses the big questions, the author does it with a witty style which usually comes off. “My Mum says that men are basically twats,” Emma giggles with the others, “and that processed food is full of chemicals and poisons and artificial additives and that sends people crazy, specially men who are crazy to start with.” Emma sits back, satisfied with her explanation of the impact of processed foods on the world and the mental distress it causes.”

The problems for the reader begin when the author loses control of his work. Characters drift into the novel but their stories have no resolutions. Slang words are shared by too many characters with “innit” as the worst offender. Girls, boys, women, and men of all ethnicities and ages say “innit” Most distracting, innit? Emma calls her girlfriend “bruv” which means brother and a few characters say, “Oh my days”, an uncommon, archaic phrase that had its moment in the internet sun when a British footballer used it during the year this novella was published.

There is a howler when psychotherapist Caitlan invents the phrase “over fixated” instead of saying fixated. One of her Tinder dates uses over-preoccupation instead of pre-occupation.

Author Navajo writes strongly on the dramatic tale of a bed-wetting boy traumatized by his mother and sister and uses sophisticated humor when parents and teachers from a working-class school journey to an awards ceremony. He is also effective in recounting tragedy. Unfortunately, he lacks the craft to weave these interludes into his more basic humorous style so the novel repeatedly jars on the reader.

I give Ironing two out of four stars. It is certainly well above one and promises three or four-star potential in Navajo. But he (or less likely she) needs to learn the craft of novel writing, and talk to an efficient editor.

A reader with a bent for humor and an interest in the weightier issues of modern times should enjoy this novella despite its shortcomings.

Bernie Dowling

2 Jan 2022

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