Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks

Set in the late 70s early 80s in London with the Jamaican, Carribean diaspora, this is a story of love, escape, police and violence with the young women Yamaye, Asase and Rumer finding their own way and for Yamaye finding her own voice and political awareness.

Tombstone estate gyals – Caribean, Irish. No one expects better. We aint IT. But we sure ain’t shit. All we need is a likkle bit of riddem. So we go inna it, deep, into the dance-hall crypt.


And so they live their life to dance until the morning in a crypt, underground where the dead are buried. The music is loud with bass and the ganja swirls in the air.

We’re dancing in the darkness, skinning up with the dead. I feel them twisting around me, round and round, rattles on their wrisits and ankles, broken-beat bodies of sound. The Dub Master spinnning versions of delayed time. Slack-jawed, slicking up words from tongue root.


Yamaye falls in love with a man, Moose, who also loves to dance but who works as a cabinet maker and lives out in the countryside. They tentatively fall in love and start to envisage a life together until Moose is picked up by the police and beaten to death whilst being held in a cage. At this point, Yamaye’s life that she has held onto, gripped by her fingernails, slips out of her hold. She sees how her father was with her mother and realises that she needs to escape and is introduced to Monassa who can offer her a safe house in Bristol.

Once there, she realises that this is no safe house and that Monassa is not her saviour but in reality her ‘owner’ where she is expected to do what is asked of her, regardless, and from where she can not escape. It takes a lot of time, stealing of money and a sense of her own danger before Yamaye does get free and in doing so, ends up in Jamaica with Moose’s Granny Itaba in Cockpit Country. Granny Itaba shows her the old ways of dealing with problems and Yamaye eventually uses these methods to get rid of Monassa who has come after her – just as she knew he would.

Throughout the novel there is the background of music and dancing to hold life up, to provide a rhythm and an escape with the bass pounding and hypnotic dancing taking people elsewhere – with a little help from the drugs. Yamaye is a wordsmith and creates her own chants and lyrics to introduce and to sing along.

‘We can go overboard, underground or soundbound,’ he says.


This is a coming-of-age story with an original setting and tells of a girl finding her own voice. I would have loved a brief list of music to listen to whilst reading this and I can see why it is on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023. It is original and in parts has great writing.

Tower blocks, neat columns in straight rows, orderly as a slave-ship mortality list.


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