The book begins at 16.57 hours with Lee James Connor. He is 22, lives in a first-floor bedsit in south-west London and is a follower of Nicholas Farmer, self-proclaimed leader of right-wing group Home Front, whose slogan is “Make Britain Great Again.”
The story is told from three viewpoints – Connor, Grace and Alex. Grace Wheatley is in her late thirties and a daughter of the Windrush generation. She lives about seven miles away from Lee, with her teenage son Isaiah. She’s a single mum, a teaching assistant at the local primary school and a regular at her local church.
Superintendent Alex Lewis of Kentish Town Police Station is unhappily married to Kathy and they have two teenage sons (Luke – 16 and Jack – 14). He is on the Hostage Negotiation rota that week.
The novel follows the siege that ensues. Connor’s choice of place to attack is Grace’s local church with its Refugees Welcome sign. When he goes in, armed and with a plan, there are nine people inside – Grace, the vicar Rosie Phillips, Syrian refugees Mariam and her daughter Rahel (12) and son Ittack (14), Alan and Jean Richardson (who are in their early seventies, Alan had a heart bypass six months earlier), Helen (a local youth worker of Gambian descent) and her boyfriend Jack.
We follow what happens from the three viewpoints of Connor, Grace and Lee.
It is an interesting novel, fast-paced with short chapters that make you want to read on and find out what happens. The characters are believable and I especially loved Grace, she is absolutely amazing. It’s written in real time, so holds your interest as you are following the events “as they happen” which makes you invested in it all.
One minor criticism is that the title of the novel isn’t the most inspiring. Nine Lives may have been a more interesting title than The Siege! Also I felt we didn’t really get to know Alan, Jean and Helen.
But overall, it’s a great book!
9 out of 10