by Koushik Banerjea
Life on a London council estate leads the entrepreneurial Conrad on a conflicted journey between his ambition, his loyalty to his Jamaican nan and his need to redeem himself. The suppressed scars of a life under the Spanish dictator Franco resurface in Laura’s traumatic coming of age. Seemingly comfortable British Indian girl Roxy wants something different, but isn’t sure what. Then there is D, the inner-city boffin looking for more than the dubious distinction of being the younger brother of an accomplished thief. Like the others, D is not content with his allotted role in life. He’d rather be a ‘category unknown’.
Four very different characters, one lifetime, the old certainties gone. And as the threads holding their identities together unravel, these intertwined lives are propelled into the heart of their troubled times. Spanning the decades from the rise of Thatcher in the late 1970s to the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008, Category Unknown is a darkly comic portrait of lives in miniature flailing around the edges of the bigger questions. Who am I? How did I get here? Why am I kitted out in counterfeit sportswear? At the book’s core is the simple premise – when life is precarious, perhaps the greatest freedom of all resides in refusing to be stereotyped.