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The Business by Martina Cole

The Business

by Martina Cole

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I have a weakness for Martina Cole, but I have to say this is not one of her best.

Like many of her books it is poorly structured; characters prominent in the first half hardly get mentioned in the second; while others seem to drift in from nowhere to become central.

Cole's code of morality has always been dogy, but in this volume it becomes positively bizarrre.

The book is a six hundred page denunciation of one character who becomes a heroin addict - one is led to believe out of positive choice. The rest of her family are outraged, mainly because she interferes with them earning a dishonest living in the criminal underworld. To be fair a couple of mentions do get made that this underworld itself revolves round the sale of drugs, in which everyone is involved at least indirectly. But instead of taking any account of this Cole aims her fire squarely at public enemy number one - Social Workers!

Naive middle-class do-gooders to a woman! Believing everything the addict tells them and refusing to take her kids off her. Except when they do briefly, but they get denounced for that as well.

Cole has gifts as a story-teller, and does present an intermittantly convincing picture of an East End that she clearly does know well. But the story this time is banal and predictable, and largely seems set in a never-land.
  GeorgeBowling | Feb 2, 2012 |
Some books contain a hint of kitchen sink but The Business is an all-out assault on the senses, heady with steam, eau de sunlight Liquid and a chorus of clattering crockery and clashing cutlery.

The Kitchen Sink drama is not my preferred genre but no doubt some examples are well-written, genuinely moving and deeply perceptive: unfortunately The Business is not one of the above.

Although this is the 15th novel by critically-acclaimed and award-winning best seller Martina Cole, it is my first exposure to her and – I sincerely hope – my last.

Repetitive, badly-written, clichéd and boring it is one of the worst books I have read in a long time and yet, I have no doubt, it too will boast a position on some best seller list and almost certainly prove a firm favourite with women who read you magazine and follow The Bold and the Beautiful.

Set amongst the Irish Catholic criminal class in the east end of London this tedious tale follows the misfortunes of the Dooley family from the late 1970s to the present, concentrating on the lives of three generations of women.

Matriarch Mary Dooley appears to be one of those unfortunate Obsessive Compulsives with an over-active thyroid, always busy, always cleaning, polishing, washing, scrubbing and cooking for her gangster husband Gerald and their three children.

Her youngest child and only daughter Imelda is the image of her mum: slender, beautiful and elegant with high cheekbones, dark blue eyes and long, thick blonde hair. But while Mary has only two vices – she is addicted to cigarettes and strong tea which ‘gave her foetid breath and a furry tongue’ – the saintly-looking Imelda embraces sex, drugs and drink from an early age.

Inevitably Imelda falls pregnant but tells her adoring and deluded father she had been raped: dear old dad is incensed and goes on the rampage, killing the father of the child, but dying himself in the process. Mary alone sees Imelda for the sociopath she is, and knows her daughter is a dangerous liar, not an innocent victim.

Despite copious amounts of alcohol and cigarettes, Imelda gives birth to Jordanna, a lovely baby girl who becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. But Imelda – now a prostitute – loathes her baby and abuses her constantly, clinging onto the child only because she knows that by so doing she can force Mary into giving her money for drugs.

The trials and tribulations of Imelda are spelled out at length and in graphic detail as the frail little mite begs for her mother’s love only to be rejected, starved and beaten. When the child is two, her mother shoots a pimp dead but blames the murder on the toddler and so escapes retribution: at the time she is pregnant [fathered allegedly by the dead pimp] but after giving birth returns to prostitution.

Three-year-old Jordanna is left to take care of Kenny Boy, her baby brother, trying too looking after and protecting him although by now she is regularly hired out to paedophiles by her mother and sexually abused to such an extent she is rendered infertile.

And things just go downhill from there as Jordanna grows up to be unhappily promiscuous and a drug addict, while brother Kenny embraces crime and becomes a ‘Face’ to be feared and respected well before he reaches 20.

The fact the story is miserable is not what makes it bad; the problem is it is poorly written. When Imelda finds herself pregnant, the young gangster who fathered the baby thinks of it merely as ‘a bellyful of arms and legs’ – a powerful metaphor, but only the first time round. Unfortunately the phrase is repeated again and again.

Underachievers are referred to as being ‘as useful as a chocolate teapot’ – another wonderfully expressive image which however began to loose its potency on its third or fourth airing.

Cole also overuses the word ‘abortion’ as a descriptive metaphor: business dealings, relationships and lives are constantly referred to as an abortion when they begin to go wrong – although the term is never once used to describe the artificial termination of a pregnancy.

Most irritating of all is the enthusiastic misuse of the word ‘decimate’ as a synonym for destroy or ruin: it doesn’t take rocket science to work out that the word means one in ten but in The Business, lives, looks, plans and psyches are constantly decimated.

“Martina Cole is a phenomenon’ the publishers blurb informs us, ‘the only author who dares to tell it like it really is’. If that is truly the case I am decimated because this ‘dangerously thrilling’ kitchen sink drama is ‘a complete and utter abortion’. ( )
  adpaton | Feb 19, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0755328671, Paperback)

A tale of drugs, prostitution and a young girl's fight for survival against all the odds from the bestselling author Martina Cole.Imelda Dooley is scared. She's played hard and fast and she's been caught. She's pregnant and now she's on her own. Her father, not a man to mess with, will see that somebody pays for this. And it's not going to be her. So Imelda Dooley tells a lie. A lie that literally causes murders. When Mary Dooley's husband is killed in the night's events, she knows she must graft to keep the family afloat. And graft she does, becoming a name in her own right. But she still has to watch her daughter's life spiral into a vicious, hate-fuelled cycle of drugs and prostitution. Caught up in the carnage that is Imelda's existence are Mary's adored grandchildren, Jordanna and Kenny. Pretty little Jordanna isn't yet three and she already knows far too much. All she can do is look after her baby brother and try not to draw attention to herself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Imelda Dooley is really scared. She's played hard and fast and now she's been caught. She's pregnant and now she's on her own. Her father, not a man to mess with, will see that somebody pays for this, and it's not going to be her. So Imelda Dooley tells a lie - a lie that literally causes murders.… (more)

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