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The Insides of Banana Skins

Length: 352 pages5 hours


Sukey is 17. It is 1967 and she moves into a crowded North London flat: her bed is cushions on the floor of the kitchen.
Kitty, the official tenant of the flat, occupies the main bedroom. She works in a pub, steals money and other people’s husbands. Currently Dennis, a creepy older man who is estranged from his wife, shares her bed.
Also living in the flat is Jaz, Sukey’s best friend. He is studying drama and is a virgin. He shares a room with Beaky, another student, Minnie who works in an alternative food shop, Ted, her boyfriend, and Malc a drug dealer. They drink, use dope and take LSD. When there’s nothing else available, they smoke the insides of banana skins.
The novel starts a little earlier as Sukey is dumped by her first boyfriend. Jaz persuades her move into the flat. Sukey is aimless, drifting, trying out drugs and men. She’s unable and unwilling to give her life direction.
Sukey makes friend with Bridie, an Irish woman who lives in the ground floor flat with two children. Separated from her husband, she works part time as a prostitute. Their landlord and his family occupy the top floor. He is an Indian whose wife speaks no English.
Malc meets the beautiful Jojo and goes to live with her. Ted leaves Minnie. Tessa, Sukey’s friend from school, arrives and after she and Beaky sleep together they find a place of their own.
Sukey meets Joe, who works in a strip club. Joe introduces Sukey and Jaz to Vic, a pornographer and his wife, Jules, a successful potter. They have two young children and indulge in unusual sexual practices.
Through Joe, Kitty and Tessa become strippers. Kitty also poses for Vic, who has a market for obscene photos.
Jojo moves into the flat, and although still seeing Malc, has insisted that they live apart until he stops taking heroin. Malc now shares a flat with Ted. It is rent-free but in return both men have to have sex with its elderly woman owner.
One night Malc is run over and killed. Soon after, Jules commits suicide. Tessa finds a new boyfriend, a fire-eater who up till now has been homosexual; as a result, Beaky leaves her. Kitty disappears.
In the absence of Kitty, Sukey takes charge of the flat. Ted and Jojo get together and Jaz tells Sukey that there’s a man he’s kissed. Beaky moves back into the flat.
Weeks after she’s disappeared, Kitty’s murdered body is found. It is an unsettling time. Sukey begins to tire of her aimless drifting existence, but she can’t imagine how else to live.
Vic is arrested for Kitty’s murder. There is a growing sense that the old life is over with new ones starting. Jaz begins an affair with Stevie, Tessa’s homosexual boyfriend. Tessa, now pregnant, moves back into the flat and Jaz goes to live with Stevie. Minnie is negotiating a deal with the owner of the shop where she works, she has ambitions to be a businesswoman.
The landlord tells them that he wants to sell the house: his wife is not happy there. The group makes plans to leave. Dennis has reconciled with his estranged wife. Bridie reunites with her husband; they plan to return to Ireland. Beaky moves into a flat with other students.
Sukey, who has been trying to help Tessa sort her life out, is looking for a place to share with her. But Tessa, in spite of Sukey’s insistence, refuses to give up stripping. She miscarries, returns to the clubs and goes to live with another stripper. Minnie offers Sukey a room in the flat that she is renting above her shop. Sukey accepts and her new life starts.
Each chapter ends with a few sentences written from the future. These give the reader a glimpse of what happens to the characters in their later lives as well as providing additional insight into the events that have just taken place.
Although parts of the story focus on one of the others who occupy the flat, this is mainly Sukey’s story, told from her point of view. It’s the story of a young girl in a strange world and how she gradually learns to live

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