by Pete Haynes
Aidan is different. He is small, awkward and often silent, an easy man to ignore, mock or exploit, yet on the inside he is intelligent and thoughtful. He narrates Malayan Swing and speaks to the reader in a way he can’t manage in everyday life, reflecting on the world that surrounds him with great insight and an almost childlike honesty. This is the internal life of an outsider.
We meet Aidan not long after he has moved into a room in a shared flat, forced from the group home in which he felt secure by a government policy labelled ‘care in the community’. But the community is dismissive and threatening and he soon becomes lonely and scared, his best friend the radio he carries everywhere. An old shed by the railway tracks offers a hideaway during the day, while his evenings are spent in the local pubs.
Aidan’s physical and mental state starts to deteriorate, and when he bumps into Joey from the home he comes to the notice of some bad people. He wanders the streets and is attacked, and his life spirals out of control. The story ends in dramatic fashion, but it is Aidan’s decency and a sense of escape that remain with the reader. Malayan Swing is an incredibly moving novel, a testament to those living on the margins of society, and as such is a brave and important work.