Book Review: We Know What We Are by Dawn Reeves
When you think of subjects at the centre of a novel, football clubs and their local council, are not the most obvious that spring to mind. However, the reality is that as recently as last year, Championship side Millwall almost lost its stadium to a sinister development plan instigated by the local Labour council. Indeed, the further you delve back, the more ‘interesting’ deals you come across, such as the missing £10million pound loan from Northampton Borough Council that was due to finance the building of a new stand at Northampton Town. Football and local councils – institutions bound together, both prone to dodgy deals and the oft lingering whiff of corruption, as potent as any matchday smell of burgers and fried onions.
With this in mind, author Dawn Reeves constructs a cracking novel which focuses on a fictitious Midlands football club nicknamed The Welders and its relationship with the local council, in a plot which encompasses a number of strands and characters. One plotline has a troubled teenager looking for her brother, an ex-Welders player, who disappeared around the time of the rebuilding of the football ground, financed of course by the council. The newly elected council leader gets involved in the girl’s desire for answers, as the council faces financial meltdown under a Chief Executive for who the football club has been his life. Underlying the book throughout are the relationships between the characters as the themes of power, trust, deception and loyalty are explored.
In addition, Reeves also provides a convincing picture of the workings of local government, as the modern-day struggles of local authorities in having to balance its books and prioritise services is touched upon. Indeed, the contemporary world of football is also explored, where despite the multi-million existence of the elite clubs, fans are taken for granted and the women’s game and that at grassroots level has to made do and mend.
Finally, returning to Millwall, mentioned in the opening of this review, the faithful at the Den are known for their song, “No one likes us, we don’t care” and could be said to have a similar sentiment to that of the refrain of the Welders faithful, “We know what we are”. Reeves uses this as the book title and maybe has done so not just to reflect the club anthem, but as something that the characters may come to reflect on.
This book certainly knows what it is – an engaging page turner.