Anthony Cartwright’s novel boasts an attention grabbing title but it’s the attention to detail that really impresses. His narrator Sean tells the story of his childhood in Dudley during which his family struggle to cope with Margaret Thatcher’s cut-backs. As the lay-offs and closures escalate, young Sean observes how her actions directly worsen the lives of his parents, grandparents, and his uncle John. He grows increasingly puzzled by the lack of direct action taken against the prime minister until he finally decides to take matters into his own hands.
The narrative switches between the perspectives of Sean as a child and as an adult which Cartwright uses to expertly ramp up the sense of impending doom. The Sean of the present who lives and works in a pub in the same area is all too aware that things do not get better, no matter what he remembers the adults telling him. While it’s relatively brief at just under 250 pages, Cartwright creates a wonderfully vivid sense of time and place. Sean’s home town is a fully realised world of well-drawn characters and vivid locations, with the danger signs surrounding the crumbling masonry a clear sign that things are coming to a boil. If the dialogue may occasionally come a little close to hammering his point home, for the most part it rings completely true.
The novel is not just a diatribe against Thatcher’s policies; it’s an excellent portrayal of a gradual disintegration of a family seen through the eyes of a child. How I Killed Margaret Thatcher is an engrossing read that shows the reader the warmth of a close-knit, well-rendered family life that is insidiously poisoned by the actions of a woman who is seen and heard on the television but whose actions are felt right at the heart of their home.