Northern Boy – Iqbal Hussain

A heartfelt story full of love and affection, brimming with humour and bringing more than one or two tears to my eye.

Northern Boy starts in the 1980s in Blackburn, with our main character Rafi obsessed with ABBA and determined not to have to go to Everton, the high school that promises daily torture for a boy who doesn’t fit in. Flamboyant and dramatic, Rafi has a flair for music and is encouraged in his choices by the wonderful Mr H. Yet he also has to deal with the pressure from his parents to do what makes them proud, and to not do anything that would cause shame amongst the neighbours.

From the outset it’s clear we’re looking at some difficult issues here, but everything is presented with a wry sense of humour and a keenly observant eye that makes it hard not to feel compassion and understanding for the characters (even if we might not agree with them).

We chart Rafi’s story from boyhood to adulthood, and though a lot of it is tough to read it was a joy to share.