Running away from a stockbroker husband, Leila questions the value of money, and tries to pursue a life with a more fulfilling existence. The hub of her new life is a job at a struggling drug addiction centre, on a deprived housing estate. Throughout the novel I felt like a detached outsider looking in on two contrasting worlds, with the mantra ‘money doesn’t buy you happiness – but it helps’ reverberating in my head.
The children at the centre were very different. On her first full day, she had watched them come in. They were boys mostly – boys with their jeans tugged down, their caps on sideways, their jackets slouched off one shoulder. Everything they were outwardly seemed to express a desire not to be contained: to be just a little lower or slightly more to one side than expected. They were poised, contorted even, not unselfconscious for even a moment; the way they walked or stood never failing to convey the values of the world they had just walked in from. Be aware, be manly, make it all look like you don’t give a shit, their bodies said. They were adults long before their time, but they were children, too – and so they came in, to play pool; to see the various counsellors; for their life skills courses in cooking and cleaning and paying the bills.