A review of Jake Wallis Simons’ “Jam”

The M25 is a ready made expression for a great mass of humanity being so near, yet so far.  An orbital motorway that eats it’s own tail, where we pass at speed within reaching distance of people we see but most likely will never touch or interact with.

This novel posits a situation, a God almighty jam that brings this road to a halt.  As engines switch off, doors open and people meet in a place where they would usually just blur by.  But what if you have a van of far right thugs and an undercover Policeman in the mix?  And a couple with children in the back (including a toddler belonging to friends) who are caught in a cycle of animosity and recrimination? And a soldier suffering from PTSD? And a Waitrose shopping van and its defensive driver?  And some stoner students with a young woman they are repeatedly date raping?  And some young Asian youths and footballers?  And a Professor who may just yet have the answer to world hunger, a high functioning alcoholic lawyer looking for ‘hubster,’ and more….what happens when these people are put in a situation that compels them to mix? That is the substance of this very readable and hugely enjoyable novel.

This is pacey storytelling that describes a static situation with compelling urgency and keeps you involved throughout.  The characters are drawn convincingly and skilfully, their back stories and their current situations are balanced with just the right amount of dramatic tension.  You feel that you get to know them and really care where the story is taking them.  In the end it rings with optimism about the human condition, in a book that could have been as bleak as its setting and situation.

This has been a very good read indeed.