Sukey is 17. It is 1967 and she moves into a crowded North London flat: her bed is cushions on the floor of the kitchen.Kitty, the official tenant of the flat who Sukey knows from when they were both at college, occupies the main bedroom. She works in a pub, steals money and other people’s husbands. Currently Dennis, a creepy older man who is estranged from his wife, shares her bed.
Also living in the flat is Jaz, Sukey’s best friend. He is studying drama and is a virgin. He shares a room with Beaky, another student, Minnie who works in an alternative food shop, Ted, her boyfriend, and Malc a drug dealer. They drink, use dope and take LSD. When there’s nothing else available, they smoke the insides of banana skins.
The novel starts a few months earlier as Sukey is dumped by her first boyfriend. Jaz comes to find her and helps her move into the flat. Sukey is aimless, drifting, trying out drugs and men. She’s unable and unwilling to give her life direction.
Sukey makes friend with Bridie, an Irish woman who lives in the ground floor flat with two children. Separated from her husband, she works part time as a prostitute. Their landlord and his family occupy the top floor. He is an Indian man whose wife speaks no English.
Relationships in the flat change. Malc meets the beautiful Jojo and goes to live with her. Ted leaves Minnie. Tessa, Sukey’s friend from school, comes to stay and after she and Beaky sleep together they find a place of their own and move out.
Sukey meets Joe, who works in a strip club. Joe introduces Sukey and Jaz to Vic, a pornographer and his wife, Jules, a stunning-looking woman and successful potter. They live in a beautiful house, have two young children and indulge in unusual sexual practices.
Through Joe, Kitty and Tessa become strippers. Kitty also poses for Vic, who has a market for various types of obscene photos. Minnie and Sukey, who have barely tolerated each other, become friends.
Jojo moves into the flat, and although she’s still seeing Malc, has insisted that they live apart until he stops taking heroin. Malc now shares with Ted. The flat is rent-free but in return both men have to have sex with its elderly woman owner.
One night Malc, drunk in Piccadilly Circus, is run over and killed. Soon after, Jules commits suicide. Tessa finds a new boyfriend, a fire-eater who up till now has been homosexual. Beaky leaves her. Kitty disappears.
In the absence of Kitty, Sukey takes charge of the flat. Ted and Jojo get together and Jaz tells Sukey that there’s a man he’s kissed and how he thinks he wants to be with him.
Weeks after she’s disappeared. Kitty’s body is found. She’s been murdered. It is an unsettling time. Sukey begins to tire of her aimless drifting existence, but she can’t imagine how else to live.
Vic is arrested for Kitty’s murder. Although stunned, the group living in the flat carry on. There is however a sense that the old life is over with new ones starting. Jaz begins an affair with Stevie, Tessa’s homosexual boyfriend. Tessa, now pregnant, moves back into the flat and Jaz goes to live with Stevie. Minnie is negotiating a deal with the owner of the shop where she works, she has ambitions to be a businesswoman.
The landlord decides to sell the house and the group makes plans to leave. Minnie offers Sukey a room in the flat that she is renting above her shop. Sukey accepts and her new life starts.
Each chapter ends with a short piece written from the future. These give the reader a glimpse of what happens to the characters in thier later lives as well as providing additional insight into the events that have just taken place.
Although parts of the story focus on one of the others who occupy the flat and we see a little bit of what that life looks like for Jaz, Minnie, Beaky, Tessa, Ted, Jojo and even Dennis, this is Sukey’s story, told from her point of view. It’s about a young girl in a strange world and how she gradually learns to live in it.
Rating: 5 stars
The Insides of Banana Skins by Jane Seaford reminds me so much of The Great Gatsby novel. The similarities of how people live in poverty and the sins they commit. It was quite interesting following each of the characters as their stories progressed. The events led to their new ways of living as well as to their failures. The raw openness of everything was refreshing to read. Characters like Minnie and Sukey were beyond believable. They did what they thought they had to endure to survive. Strong and determined. I didn’t like Dennis as his character was not one that I would like to know better. He is absolutely disgusting. Not just how he treats himself but in how he treats women as well. Using them for his own wants and needs then turning his back as well as verbally abusing them. He made my skin crawl. Ted is another male character that wasn’t on my top favorites lists. His whatever attitude and the fact that treatment of Minnie wasn’t nice. I can see real men out there acting or stooping to these men’s levels…however, I just don’t want to run into the likes of them. Minni thought she was doing fine. The fact that she let a guy like Dennis play her mad me a bit mad. Was she that oblivious? Minni was a college student then meet a married man and front here her life changed. It seems that Minnie grows as the story unfolds that others seems to roll with the time. Sex isn’t pretty or beautiful. It’s one of the main themes inside this book. Most books make sex into something wonderful but we forget that there’s an ugliness about it as well. Here, readers see that. Jane Seaford has brought together real people’s lives into these characters. Whether they’re bad or good, their actions show that destruction, death, love, and friendships come and go. Some things never change…The Insides of Banana Skins demonstrates the harsh reality of life and the cost of our consequences. Overall, I recommend this read to all.