Book Review – Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks

This is our dancing time.

It’s 1978, and Yamaye and her friends live in a small, industrial town on the edge of London, once a site of pagan rituals, where they dance with the dead. This town of cemeteries and ghosts is brought to life at the weekend by the dub reggae beats in an underground crypt club. Unsure of what her future holds, Yamaye loses herself in these dark, smokey, music-filled nights in the hopes of finding herself; and music is also how Yamaye connects with her dead mother. Living with her reclusive and cold father, in a town simmering with social and racial injustice, Yamaye is feeling lost until she meets Moose, a profound soul who shares her Jamaican heritage. The attraction is immediate, palpable, as friendship turns into a deep connection, and a deeper love; but then brutal tragedy strikes, and sets off a chain of events that brings us on a tumultuous and revelatory journey beyond London, and across the seas to the forests of Jamaica, propelled by the driving power of music.

Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks is a novel brimming with lyrical, atmospheric, musical writing; we can feel the sweat, the grime, the smoke, the beat of the underground crypt club emanating from the pages and running through us, curling around us. This is a book that pulsates with rhythm and bass, with passion and fire, with love and grief. Written largely in Jamaican patois, this creates a rhythmic and completely immersive reading experience. There is a lot of female strength in this novel, manifested in different ways, and we meet some wonderful female characters in Jamaica. 

Exploring themes of love and devastating loss; of self-discovery and friendships tested; of racial injustice, police brutality and riots; of community and the power of music to unify and mobilise; of migration and the ways we find freedom; and of the tug of our ancestors always swirling around us; this is a rich and captivating read, bursting with music, emotion, culture, and cultural history. 


Fire Rush was published on March 2nd by Vintage. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my eARC.


Jacqueline Crooks grew up in 70s and 80s Southall, part of London’s migrant community carving out a space through music, culture and politics. Immersed in the gang underworld as a young woman, she later discovered the power of writing and music to help her look outwards and engage differently with the world – a power that has driven her ever since, from her work with charities to her short stories, which have been nominated for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, the Wasafiri New Writing Prize and the BBC National Short Story Award.

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