Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Toff Chav by Miles Hadley is a slightly farcical journey through the deep cultural and class divide that is modern day England and, in particular, London. Archie Hodgkin-Smith, with his double-barreled name, is your archetypal young toff, from a long and proud lineage of aristocracy and landowners, well known for their desecration of dead pigs as a rite of passage. From the other end of the economic and cultural scale, we meet Gary, a down and out CHAV. What’s a Chav, you may ask, if you’re not from England? According to Archie’s girlfriend, Polly, CHAV stands for – Council House and Violence. Gary and his fellow Chavs and Hoodies that frequent the council estates of London appear to be a lost generation, railing helplessly and ineffectively against the disparity and unfair life they face on the edge of poverty. Gary, though, still has dreams – albeit dreams he considers can never be achieved. Gary just wants a real life, like the commuters he watches daily as they rush to work on their trains. He wants to make his late Mum proud and save himself, his sister and her baby from a life of helplessness and poverty. When Archie’s money and privileged world comes into contact with Gary and his grimy, poverty-stricken life, sparks are sure to fly.
Toff Chav is a beautiful social commentary on the mess our society is in today, where the purpose of life it seems is to make money and “to hell with everyone else.” Author Miles Hadley has drawn some extremely caricatured characters, especially with Archie Hodgkin-Smith and his fellow decadent and uncaring toffs. This I am sure was done intentionally if only to highlight the extreme juxtaposition of Archie’s and Gary’s different lives. I particularly loved the “old money” attitudes, as represented by Archie and his friends, and the contempt they showed for the “new (and possibly corrupt) money” of their “friend” Konstantine, the son of a Russian oligarch and supposed money launderer. It was a contempt they buried, in most cases, because despite their gaucheness, Konstantine’s family was incredibly wealthy. Bollard, the weirdo that so beautifully captured Gary’s mind and heart was, in my opinion, the star of the story and his simple belief in unity and humanity was a refreshing touch in an increasingly fractured world as described by the author. This book absolutely captures the essence of the populist leaders of today, their protection of their constituents and their tactics of fear and hatred to divide and conquer. It is a powerful expose of our society today, told with a touch of humour, but also a belief that, given goodwill and understanding, anything is possible. This is a superb book that everyone should read.