Makis and his mother Sofia escape a devastating Greek earthquake which has claimed his father's life. They move to North London and at first it is hard, especially at school, but being a gifted footballer, Makis slowly begins to fit in. But through no fault of his own, Makis lets down his team at an important match and the whole school, even the teachers, seem to turn against him.
Praise for Angel Boy:
"Ashley excels at tautly-potted, timely and highly topical thrillers which pack a real emotional punch." - Rivetting Reads
"This perfectly plotted thriller." - Bookseller
Makis and his mother Sofia escape a devastating Greek earthquake which claims his father's life. North London is a very different place, but Makis quickly wins a coveted place in the school football team. Unlike her son, Sofia, isolated by her grief and lack of English, sinks into depression. Makis has a brilliant idea to help her - but competing loyalties mean that sooner or later, something has to give...
“Bernard Ashley's great gift is to turn what seems to be low-key realism into something much stronger and more resonant. It has something to do with empathy, compassion, an undimmed thirst for decency and justice.”
His mother, who'd been ruler of the house in Alekata, seemed lost in London. She said the electric sewing machines at the factory were too fast; a slightly-too-heavy touch on the pedal sent everything rumpling onto the floor in a tangle of cloth and thread. The factory talk was of London things, or of Cyprus, and the laughs were rude; while all the time the overseers wanted more and more 'pieces' coming faster and faster.
Like many of the women she worked the early shift so she could be home for Makis after school, which left her with nearly two hours on her own before he came in. But after cleaning their rooms, would she go out to walk along the canal bank, or to look at the shops, or to sit in the park? Did she try to see any of Camden Town outside their cave of a home and the factory she hated? No. Afternoon after afternoon when Makis got in from school, feeling pleased with a good pass or a goal, ready to try a new English word on his mother, she'd be sitting in the dim light of the basement window, not even looking out, but with a handkerchief at her eyes.
Had they done right, then, coming to England? Well, Makis thought, it would be better to be here when the winter winds blew and the rains came back home, with no money, no work, and only a tent to live in.
'Why don't you go for a walk?' he'd ask her. She would go out with him on Sundays after the service at the cathedral in Pratt Street, but never on her own. And he knew why she always shook her head hard at his question. One afternoon in the first week he'd found her huddled in the bedroom, crying. At first he'd thought it was about his father - Makis dreamed of the man as if he were still alive, even living with them here in London - but on this day his mother had carried on crying when he gave her a kiss, and started shaking as if she was in some sort of shock.
'I went round too many corners. I didn't know where I was. When I asked people for my way, they spoke nothing I knew. I couldn't say the name of this street in English. A man shouted at me, a woman walked me to the police - but when I saw the big door, I ran.'
'So how did you get home?'
Shivering with stress she'd shrugged her shoulders, wailed the way she had at his father's funeral. 'St Gerasimos. Perhaps St Gerasimos guided me back…'
So he knew why she went nowhere without him. While Makis's English would slowly get better through being at school, and he was being slapped on the back for his football in the playground, she went only to the Greek-Cypriot factory and to the Greek-Cypriot shops just round the corner from Georgiana Street, lonely and nervous, scared of being lost again in this big place.
And seeing a strong mother becoming as timid and frightened as a goat for the slaughter is no sight for a son who cares.