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Book review: The Runaway by Martina Cole

Book: The Runaway
Author: Martina Cole
Genre: Fiction, crime, thriller
Rating: 4/5

Published: 1997

The Runaway is a novel by The Sunday Times number one bestselling author Martina Cole. If you have read any of Cole’s crime novels, then you are well aware it is not suitable for the faint-hearted, as it can be hard to stomach the brutality of it. A book which is gritty and graphic, it portrays the merciless gangs and harsh lives of Londoners between the years 1960 to 1980, in its rawest form. Where the characters such as Eamonn Docherty play god and decides who should live or die, making a name for himself an heartless villain in London and New York. 

The story follows Cathy Connor and Eamonn Docherty living together as children: Cathy’s mother, Madge, is a prostitute and her husband Eamonn’s father, Eamonn senior lives off his wife’s wages. They all live in poverty in the slums of the East End of London, but this does not stop the two kids from dreaming about a better life with each other. These dreams however, are shattered following a series of events which push Eamonn to move to New York leaving Cathy behind and fighting for herself. After ending up in care, Cathy has no choice but to become a runaway and finds herself at the doors of Soho, where she makes herself a friend, a transvestite by the name Desrae. However, It’s only a matter of time before, the two sweet childhood lovers’ paths crosses again. This time Cathy is not a weak little girl anymore, she’s grown, strong, beautiful and clever.

If you have read Cole’s other books, you will realise that the drill is pretty much similar in terms of the characters and theme of the plot; men who are hungry for power, money and women who are either used and abused or break the traditional norms of the ideology that women are inferior, are powerful in their own way. Don’t let the thickness of the book intimidate you, because it’s a real page turner. It’s highly gripping, and throws you into a rollercoaster of emotions with love, betrayal, loss and gang violence. The brutality of the book can be frightening, and the love between Cathy and Eamonn shows us how deep love can run even if you spend years apart, and even when they are not deserving of that love. With gang violence follows death and as Cole accurately describes in the book, “no matter what happened to you personally, life went on for everyone.”

A fiction book which allows you to reflect on your own life nonetheless, with quotes such as, “Oscar Wilde said that youth was wasted on the young, and he was right. When you were young you wasted not only your own life, but usually someone else’s as well.” Although, as amazing the book may be, I can’t ignore the book’s repetitiveness. A well written, engaging story, yet, a story filled with prostitutes, women who are used, abused and who believe they need a powerful, handsome, rich man to survive the harsh world of their reality. If you are getting tired of this theme, then I must say that this book is not for you.  However, if it’s your first time reading from this author, it will not disappoint. 

You can buy your own copy from Amazon here.