Warning - a political rant about the immigration crisis from the comfort of my heated house, after having had a hot bath and plenty of breakfast. I add that because I KNOW I am letting off steam from my position of economic security.
Just skip this post if you don't want to be bothered with all this immigration stuff.
The important recent dates are, I suppose, 1991, when it became independent from the fast dissolving Russian bloc, and then 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. The setting, in time, of the book, is squarely between the two, allowing for the several years it probably to write it and get it published. Andriy is from the industrial, mining region in the East, and still has clear sympathies with Russia, whereas Irina from Kyiv in the West and is rejoicing in Independence, although this only becomes clear as the story progresses. Other characters are from China, somewhere in Africa, and Poland if I remember rightly.
They have all come to England to earn money - and we discover, in the book, a (fictionalised) account of how they all get on. How they work! How they graft for every meal, in horrible, horrible conditions, always prey to unscrupulous exploitation by people traffickers of every description.
When I read it the first time, I absorbed just the uplifting story of people who are trying to survive while remaining essentially good people.
Doesn't it make sense that if economic survival in your own country has become impossible, or you are at risk because you are not heterosexual, or follow the wrong religion, or a member of a minority ethnic group, you would do anything to leave? I don't think that these 'young single men', like Emmanuel and the others in the story, are just here 'for a better life'. I think they have come here to have a chance to live.
The stories in the paper about how this country is dealing, or failing to deal with the needs of the people arriving on our shores are shameful. I don't know how we have got ourselves into this mess, but I pray with all my heart that we can find a humane and civilised way through, to sort out the paperwork (I will NOT call it 'processing') and integrate these people into our population in a generous and timely fashion.
Not forgetting the appalling problems that people already living in this country also experience with housing, poverty, health services... to tackle the immigration issues without also addressing the needs of long established citizens is really going to do nothing except stir up more trouble.
I've finished with the book now, if you would like to read it, let me know in the comments (I won't print your address) and I will post it to you.