Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
‘A literary rendering of the Top Boy generation… I cannot conjure another work which captures this culture in such depth – or with such brutal honesty – as only lived experience can tell ’ Graeme Armstrong, author of The Young Team
’An astonishingly powerful book’ Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love
This life is like being in an ocean. Some people keep swimming towards the bottom. Some people touch the bottom with one foot, or even both, and then push themselves off it to get back up to the top, where you can breathe. Others get to the bottom and decide they want to stay there. I don’t want to get to the bottom because I’m already drowning.
This is a story of a London you won’t find in any guidebooks.
This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys too eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way.
This is a story of reputations made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost.
This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police stations and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal.
This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fear and the hope.
This is about what’s left behind.
Reviews of Who They Was
- ‘An astonishingly powerful book. Krauze is an immense new talent’ Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love
- ‘Magnificent in its relentless intensity and searing honesty, this is a new voice arriving fully formed and raring to go’ Booker Prize judges 2020
- ‘It is exceptional’ Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie
- ‘A timely and vital exploration into London’s violence crisis by someone who experienced the sharp end of it. I cannot conjure another work which captures this culture in such depth – or with such brutal honesty – as only lived experience can tell. This is a literary rendering of the Top Boy generation tackling the expected themes of drugs, violence, poverty and social justice – and the unexpected – family, futility and fragility. Krauze’s voice is stuck in my head and it is an authentic voice of the streets’ Graeme Armstrong, author of The Young Team
- ‘Gabriel Krauze is an unbelievably talented writer. No one manages to blend “literary beauty” and “an uncomfortable feeling that he’s actually quite scary” like him’ Joel Golby