Cover Image: Broadwater


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Like all short story collections, a bit of a mixed bag. I liked how characters from one would pop up in another, which really helps the book feel like a portrait of Tottenham, but some of the dialogue didn't always ring true. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
"These stories are about ordinary people struggling with the everyday realities of life. Characters 'cope and hope' within the context of contemporary London."

I have been reading this short story collection on and off since September, taking breaks after some of the heavy stories (of which there are a few). Between being glued to election coverage, I dipped in and out of the stories over the past couple of days and finished off the collection.

Jac Shreeves-Lee clearly has a talent for writing. I loved the way she builds characters and creates these micro-plots which allow you to dip into the real lives of the residents she has imagined. Each story felt perfectly formed in terms of the amount of character and plot development, something which I greatly admire in short story writers.

My favourite stories were Ricky's Story and Norma's Story, but honourable mentions must go to Cupcake's Story and Olivia's Story, too.

Norma's Story is dark and depressing, even deeply unsettling in places. But Jac Shreeves-Lee doesn't shy from sharing this darker side to real peoples lived experiences. Indeed, in many of the stories, I felt like she shone a light on people whose stories are rarely seen in popular media and I really respect that. Norma has suffered a stroke, has no access to her voice and is a wheelchair user. This sudden disability leaves Norma completely dependent on her husband: a man who seems to have little respect for her. On one occasion, he leaves Norma overnight in the care of a neighbour and they venture out together and have the loveliest time and it just filled my heart right up. Honestly, I was almost in tears reading Norma being treated so kindly. Hers is a story which will stay with me. CW: rape, abuse.

Ricky's Story is a beautiful imagining and a wonderful note to finish on: leaving the reader with a feeling of hope for the future. It was so beautiful that it made my little heart sing. I don't want to say too much about it because I think it's best experienced for yourself. CW: parental separation.

I really enjoyed the variety and diversity in this collection. Though some difficult themes are explored, I feel that Jac Shreeves-Lee is a master storyteller and I'd definitely like to read more of her writing.

Content warnings: weaponry, murder, racism, rape, sexual violence, childhood sexual abuse, trauma, domestic violence, sex work. (please note this may not be exhaustive - it is from the top of my head).
Was this review helpful?
Sadly this one wasn’t for me. I was reeled in by the books description and hoped for real-life accounts and stories of the people of Broadwater Farm, Tottenham....however this book is made up of fictional accounts and stories and I feel like a real trick has been missed here.

I get what the author has tried to do, but I really think this would have been better achieved by using real peoples accounts of living in North London and Tottenham. By using made up stories, the author has kind of done the opposite of giving the ‘forgotten about’ and ‘overlooked’ residents a voice....she has quite literally gentrified them.

Not only that, but I found each of these short stories weird. Every single one had some weird sex scene in it, which to be honest just made me feel uncomfortable and creeped out. It didn’t add anything to these stories and so I really don’t understand the angle here. For example.....There was an old woman having sex with a young woman from down the road, an old man masturbating to his neighbors having sex, a young child afraid of her uncle who was an exhibitionist...etc etc. not nice and not doing anything to tell the people of Tottenham’s tales. 

I have added one star for a couple of the stories I enjoyed about race, mainly the last one and another towards the end. But overall all of these stories were miserable and paint the people of Tottenham as alcoholics, sex pests and suicidal. Not for me at all. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for that.
Was this review helpful?
‘Broadwater - Short Stories Grounded in Tottenham’ by Jac Shreeves-Lee @fairlightbooks 


i was kindly given access to a digital copy of this book by Fairlight via @netgalley ! 

summary: as the title suggests, Broadwater is a collection of 14 short stories set predominantly against the backdrop of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London. Shrouded in a public history fraught with violence and crime, most notably the 1985 and 2011 riots, the Broadwater estate has recently undergone a successful regeneration project which has reduced levels of crime to almost zero. The estate is home to people from more than 40 countries. Through her stunning prose, Shreeves-Lee showcases the nuances of Broadwater and its residents, who are a kaleidoscope of characters; old, young, black, white, asian, men and women. although often subtle, Broadwater offers a timely and accurate commentary on modern life in Britain, and on the reality of Broadwater Farm as it exists now.

i really loved this! Clearly Jac Shreeves-Lee has incredible writing ability; despite the stories being short, she gave each one such depth in a way I felt was very reminiscent of Bernardino Evaristo in Girl, Woman, Other. The cast of characters was broad and the short stories covered such a wide range of topics. I also was interested to read more about the history of Broadwater Farm as a result of this. 

My bottom line on this book is if you liked Girl, Woman, Other, you need to read Broadwater!!
Was this review helpful?

I really like the literary technique of painting a community through its residents. It is very fitting for short stories collections and it works well for this particular one. When it comes to representation, Broadwater seems to be doing a great job of presenting us the reality that must be The Farm. It's obvious that Shreeves-Lee knows this community very well. She is truthful in her descriptions: people struggling with crime, with inequality, with poverty, with grief, generally with life.
I found the first part of this collection weaker than the second. It surprised me with its morbidity. Like in every single story someone was dying, or being murdered or people were dealing with the aftermath of a death; to the point I was not sure what to do with it. But luckily it picked up in the second half with very emotional, even relatable stories. Also I really couldn't feel the "community spirit" that is mentioned in the synopsis and alluded at in some stories. Despite various characters appearing in different stories and some mentioning how everyone knows everyone me the sense of community was rather lacking. But then I've thought that there's a huge difference between urban and rural/smaller communities. In urban communities, despite this 'knowing', there's a cold permeating all relationships and it is more than obvious here.

Probably my favourite story was Norma's Story but Cupcake's or Olivia's story come close too. Ricky's story is great too, I've enjoyed the fantastical element and the optimistic vibe of change as a positive outcome. It worked very well and was truly fitting as an ending story.
Was this review helpful?
I requested this book expecting a gritty depiction of inner city life but what I got was much more nuanced than that. Like most people my only knowledge of Broadwater Farm Estate was news reports I saw in the times of the riots. This book changed my impressions of the estate, being a lot more positive and uplifting than I was expecting.

The writer has given a voice to the 'ordinary' people of the estate that should be listened to.

Despite the characters in the book coming from a variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities there was a shared sense of community that I was envious of. The characters were different to me in many ways but I still found them relevant and liked the way the author slowly revealed the relationships between them as the book came to its conclusion. 

The book was beautifully written but still used simple language and never overly sentimental or emotional.. Even though the stories cover important social issues I never felt I was being preached at.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to read it again.
Was this review helpful?
I like this type of short story collection, where the stories are loosely connected. The main character of one story may be a side character in another, showing you a fleeting glimpse of an outside perspective. 

I think the author did a good job of showing a diverse range of people living in or connected to Broadwater in some way. Some stories touched me in some way and others didn't, as is often the case with short stories. A few of them were a bit too bleak for my tastes. There was a lot of sadness and longing for a better life. However, there were also some stories I really enjoyed, especially the closing story. That one leaves the collection on an interesting note, which I appreciated. 

Overall, I enjoyed this collection and it provided me with a slice of life of a random bunch of fictional people inthe Tottenham area. It sometimes left me wanting a bit more, but I guess that is what short stories do!
Was this review helpful?
In Broadwater, Jac Shreeves-Lee tells the stories of 14 fictional residents of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, North London. The area is well-known in real life as a symbol of ‘failed’ post-war architecture - 1960s concrete tower blocks that were supposed to be the utopian neighbourhoods of the future, but instead became undesirable and neglected ‘dumping grounds’ due to their design faults - as well as the 1985 and 2011 riots. Rather than concentrating on the issues that have come to define the estate, though, the author zooms in on the everyday lives of a variety of individuals, to great effect.

The one word I would use to describe Broadwater is ‘kaleidoscopic’. Turn the kaleidoscope once and you’re looking through the eyes of a young man who works in his father’s petrol station but loves literature and dreams of becoming a social worker. Turn it again and you’re looking through the eyes of an older woman who’s had a stroke and can’t talk, but is still the same perceptive, fun-loving person inside. Another turn, and you’re looking through the eyes of a middle-aged woman with a traumatic past who had her children taken into care when a tragic turn of events left her struggling to cope. All life is here.

Many of the stories have sad elements. None of the characters are saints, and some of them are in tough situations due to dysfunctional relationships, difficult childhoods, illness, bereavement, and the rock-and-a-hard-place decisions they have been forced to make. People suffer from broken hearts, tell lies, and are tipped over the edge.

Shreeves-Lee doesn’t limit herself to the present day, delving into characters’ histories to show us what they’ve been through and how they ended up where they are now. Reflecting the diversity of the estate, most of the characters are POC, and we gain an insight into the racism they have experienced, whether it’s the outright abuse that particularly characterised the 1950s-1980s, or the institutional racism that makes it hard for young Black people to succeed today.

That doesn’t mean this book is unremittingly grim, though. Hope breaks through in the form of ambitious young people, inspiring teachers, loving relationships, improving fortunes, and humour. Shreeves-Lee also has a real knack for making the ordinary sparkle; her descriptions of everyday scenes at the petrol station shop, as well as the café, are especially vivid and had me craving pre-lockdown life. There’s just something warm and cosy about steamed-up windows, custard creams and life rolling on - although it does involve an inordinate amount of mopping for some of the characters.

Broadwater is a kaleidoscopic collection of short stories that portrays a variety of characters and situations with sympathy, sparkle and warmth.
Was this review helpful?
This book was wonderful.  I was so intrigued by the many different people and the way they created their own community.  Thank you to Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
Broadwater is an anthology of stories of simple people from the Broadwater farm. It gives us an insight into the people from a small town,their lives and their gossip.
Not only the writing beautiful and impeccable,but was also important. It talks about many important things,but never preaches. It reads like an old timey storytelling,and I love that.
The characters are so different and so diverse,which I adored. It was a bit tough to keep up with them all and remember how they all are linked though.
Overall,I really really liked this book.
Was this review helpful?
Broadwater Farm, originally conceived as a utopian ideal of inner city planning, has had more than its share of disruptive history, including riots, recent murders (July 2020), and the usual challenges faced by inhabitants of high rise project living.  Jac Screeves-Lee has written her debut collection introducing a large, diverse community, stories which intersect and overlap, and results in a tapestry of humanity.   In some, as in real life, there is heartbreak due to perceived hopelessness, but this reader came away with admiration for the result, particularly since it was written in present day, under the reality of a pandemic lockdown.  The inequalities engendered by race are prevalent throughout.  Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
This book is an anthology of short stories are set either in Broadwater Farm in Tottenham or.with strong connections to "the Farm".

Whilst the individual stories were interesting, I was left feeling unsatisfied as they just offered a brief window into each character's life and then it was on to someone else. There was overall between the stories with certain characters receiving mentions in various stories but I found it really difficult to keep track of these connections. 

The writing is absolutely impeccable, the format just wasn't to my tastes.
Was this review helpful?
This is collection of normal stories about normal people, all living on Broadwater Farm or nearby, some of them know each other. This knowing each other so well gives the impression of small town life and small town gossip.

I must admit that I had no idea what Broadwater Farm is. During the first 2-3 stories I thought of it as a real farm. Slowly I understood that it's just the opposite, some kind of ghetto.

It was hard to keep up with the different characters. The stories about very diverse people and their history lack suspense but leave you with a feeling of melancholy.
Was this review helpful?
My family’s from Haringey and I live in the area, so I was fascinated to read this collection of short stories about Broadwater Farm.
Although each story is separate, some characters do link through them.
They are beautifully written and each is a gem: it’s not a book to rush.
It’s also such a timely book - it tells us about the reality of racial inequality and the strength of community. 
But it rarely preaches - the stories are heartfelt, like Zu Zu’s one of how she had to give up her kids after a life of adversity.
I also loved the story about Mawusi and her lover Gladys who gives her money: such a complicated yet pure relationship.
I’d really recommend these well-crafted and absorbing stories.
Was this review helpful?
Broadwater is a collection of short stories, told through a variety of different perspectives from the inhabitants of Broadwater Farm, an area in Tottenham, North London. The area is home to multiple generations and nationalities – all sharing a common experience of living in the high density housing that regularly graces some of London’s most deprived areas.

Each story, told through a different inhabitant, features the struggles of everyday life – be that the lingering impact of Windrush and the hostile environment policy, economic struggles, difficulties in family life and relationships, living with mental health problems, and the ongoing battle to just stay afloat. Every story is told in such a raw, human centered way, that the reader cannot help but fully empathise with each individual. It truly reveals the sense of the “cope and hope” style of life that the many individuals included in this book, seem to subscribe to.

Written in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster and during the Coronavirus epidemic that has highlighted the ongoing racial inequality in the UK, Broadwater is a collection of stories so suited to this time and one that will always be relevant. The promises of regeneration projects across deprived areas of London in recent years, have consistently failed to live up to expectations, as echoed by the portrayal of living conditions in these stories and by the characters themselves,

“Look, however you dress it up Ricky, so-called regeneration is just a pretty word for social cleansing.”

After a series of riots in the late 1980s, Broadwater was given a bad reputation, but in recent years has been revived. Despite the hardship woven throughout this book, told through a myriad of different stories and perspectives, what unites them all is the shared experience of community. Every character is connected to the next and there is a common bond of solidarity that defines the feeling of this book. Each story is short and sweet, but connects to the larger picture, which is the commonality of human experience.

The book largely centers on the struggles caused by long term racial inequality, as Broadwater is home to one of the most ethnically diverse areas in London. Each story and the variety of character experiences, really reflect this in such a harrowing and eye opening way. In light of recent events in the US, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, these stories feel all the more important and relevant for everyone to read.

But the stories also speak to everyone regardless of race, on a human level. In her writing, Jac Shreeves-Lee demonstrates the beauty in the everyday which corresponds so jarringly with an unavoidable sense of suffering. In the many stories featured in the collection is the sense of lost dreams, but channeled beautifully with a sense of hope and wonder for life.

Broadwater is a community joined together by a variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities and the individuals that tell its story are amalgamated by a shared sense of commonality due to the endless strive for hope and the promise of a better life.

It lingers with an unavoidable sense of the harsh realities of life that so many people living in deprived areas of London face, despite the endless promises of something better to come. But on the flip side, reveals the power in the shared community, which ultimately, is the driving force that keeps so many individuals afloat.

A powerful collection of short stories that enlightens the mind and soul – it is as honest as it is captivating, and the characters will linger with you long after you finish the final pages.
Was this review helpful?
As a child in the 1970s, Broadwater Farm looked, to me, like a strange, isolated castle when viewed from Lordship Recreation Ground. However, this collection of ingeniously dovetailed stories widens the focus to show it as a vital part of a community with heart
Often ignored, often demonised, rarely understood by the mainstream, it's a community which, for the most part, lives the other side of the glossy adverts. These are stories of broken people, breaking people, people wondering what happened to their youthful dreams, and people forging new dreams. People who have to face that moment, as we all do, when they take a long, hard look into their own eyes and see what they have become and, perhaps, choose to become somebody else. Above all, these stories refuse to reduce the community to a monochrome, zooming in instead on the intricate human detail of an unfairly maligned area.

Thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Short stories based in Broadwater.Short stories that brings the estate the people alive.Characters living their lives their daily struggles ,relationships.The estate comes alive drew me in highly recommend.these short stories .#netgalley#fairlightbooks
Was this review helpful?