The Peckham Experiment was a project begun in 1926, aimed at encouraging working-class families to better themselves through access to leisure and cultural activities. Guy Ware imagines twins born into this project: Charlie and JJ. As the novel begins, we meet Charlie aged 85, looking back on his life to write a eulogy for JJ.
The brothers’ parents were communist, and JJ and Charlie carried into adulthood ideals of improving life for everyone. JJ was a council architect, looking to design better housing for working-class people. Charlie was a surveyor, building those homes. As time went on, they would find their ideals compromised, and placed in the shadow of structural failure and disaster.
Charlie’s narrative voice is dense and discursive, his recollections haphazard at times, but still sharp. It’s a voice that can weave together the personal, political and historical. As a result, the twins’ experiences reflect undercurrents that play out across broader society in the novel. It’s fascinating to read.
Published by Salt.