I don’t often read novels that bore me, but as part of branching out from my typical genre of fictional romance, comedy and drama, I thought I would try Fiona Mozley’s second novel, Hot Stew, which follows characters of different class, race and privilege.
From the off, I found it interesting that a white author chose to write about stories firstly from the perspective of a couple of black women, Precious and Tabitha who have retired from sex work, and are living in a Soho building owned by the well-off aristocrat Agatha. In the building, clients come and go from the brothel which poses as a lifeline to many of the workers there.
Despite this different type of story, I soon became bored and confused, finding the novel lacked substance. To be honest, it was very random. Mozley includes many characters which rarely overlap, all set in Soho, including the sex workers, people visiting, Agatha, an actor, ‘the archbishop’ and a couple known as the man they call Paul Daniels and woman they call Debbie McGee. Still, I wouldn’t be able to tell you why the people called them that or what relevance it has. Even for some characters, I don’t know what relevance they had in the end.
I guess that’s why it’s called Hot Stew, as there is a jumble of people from different cultures and on different projectories thrown into the buzzing London city, yet they are taking it at their own place, slowly heating up as they face difficulties.
Maybe my interpretation is wrong?
There is the slow bubbling of the issue that Agatha who owns the building now wants them kicked out so it can be turned into luxury flats. We learn more about each character and that Agatha has an at-arm’s length relationship with her snobby mum, Anastasia. But hold onto the building – it may not be as grand as we are led to believe.
Then we have Robert who likes the brothel but has links to Debbie McGee. But Debbie McGee isn’t actually Debbie McGee – but you probably guessed that. Debbie McGee is in fact Cheryl. Cheryl has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Apart from that, we still don’t know much about her.
Honestly, I was very bored throughout the novel. I didn’t understand its purpose. I understand that Mozley drawed upon how life may be for sex workers and those living in poverty compared to wealth. It’s a shame as I want to enjoy venturing out of my comfortable reading space and learn more.
Rating – 2/5 ⭐️⭐️
Genre – Urban fiction