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Niall Griffiths: Grits

This book has been called the Welsh Trainspotting and not surprisingly so. It follows the stories of a bunch of young drifters from various parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland who are currently living in Aberystwyth in Wales. Unlike Trainspotting, there is no real plot, no major developments. Each of the main characters tells his/her story, in what Griffiths assumes is an attempt to imitate the accent of the various regions (but, at which, he fails – dismally, in my view.)

Though Aberystwyth is a university town, the main characters have little to do with the university, except to despise the students, who they see as benefiting from their well-to-do parents, while they (our heroes) have to struggle to make ends meet. Making ends meet means finding money for the rent and daily necessities. And the daily necessities for most of them are drugs of all kinds, including alcohol. What Griffiths does effectively is show a group of young people who feel totally at odds with the society in which they live. A career of petty theft and the dole to finance a drug habit is not a new story line but Griffiths shows us that this career path is now the norm for the poor and disadvantaged, that the post-Thatcher, Blair Britain has created a greater divide than before between rich and poor. For the poor, there is only one answer – survival with stimulants to help you through the day.

Publishing history

First published 2000 by Jonathan Cape