Grace Trevithick is a documentary film producer who lives in London. She’s been part of a successful team filming in central Europe, but she’s now preparing to leave the team and strike out on her project. That will mean traveling to the old industrial heartland of England and trying to find out why people want Britain to leave the EU. The Brexit vote is coming.
Cairo Jukes is something of a freelance laborer in a town called Dudley. He joins work crews assembled for short stints and digging up pipes and other remnants of the industrial past. It wasn’t that long ago when there were busy factories here, providing regular work and full-time jobs. Now, he’s grateful for the work when he can get it. At one time he was a promising boxer, but that didn’t work out. He’s in his mid-40s and lives with his parents. His daughter and new grandson have recently moved in, too, kicked out by Cairo’s ex-wife.
Grace and Cairo meet, and he agrees to be interviewed. His parents are as well. When he sees the report air, he’s somewhat surprised that the television station thought it necessary to use English subtitles. He thought he spoke English.
The two discover that even their own English languages are different or perceived as different.
The result of the Brexit vote shocked Europe, the British government, and British elites. The editor of Peirene Press, in an attempt to understand how the vote happened, commissioned novelist Anthony Cartwright to write a novel of Brexit. The Cut is what he wrote, and it’s a fascinating, wrenching novel.
While no work of fiction or non-fiction could capture everything of what Brexit was about and meant, this one gives a taste. Alternating between events in the lives of Cairo and Grace before and after the vote, we see the two characters progress from documentary director and subject to romantic relationship. Cartwright, through his characters, will ask whether this relationship is even possible.
Cartwright is the author of four previous novels: The Afterglow (2004); Heartland (2010); How I Killed Margaret Thatcher (2013); and Iron Towns (2016). He lives in London.
The Cut doesn’t explain Brexit, but it does allow a look, often a deep look, into the hearts of two people caught on different sides of the debate.
Top photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Images. Used with permission.