Victoria Park, Gemma Reeves, book review: ‘Subtle picture of a place that could in some senses be anywhere’

Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves. Photograph: Sarah Birch

A retired deli owner, a petty thief and an artist may not on the face of it seem to have much in common, but they are among the rich array of characters that populate Gemma Reeves’ novel Victoria Park.

The text consists of 12 snapshots of the area on the Hackney-Tower Hamlets borders, one for every month from October to the following September.

Through the loosely-connected stories of the neighbourhood’s denizens, a portrait gradually comes into focus of its complex history and its many layers. A large post-war Jewish population has more recently been joined by people from many other groups, but the open expanse remains a focal point for local lives.

Indeed, pretty Vicky Park figures as the stage for a number of turning points in the characters’ fortunes, not all of them leading to happy endings. The tales we read include love and excitement, but also a large dose of loss, grief and pain.

With a pleasurably engrossing rhythm, the novel paints a subtle picture of a place that could in some senses be anywhere, but is also emphatically rooted in its own peculiar history.

Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves is published by Allen & Unwin. ISBN: 978-1-91163-078-4. RRP: £8.99.