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Is his story exception or has this been a route to redemption for many young men? He was from a loving family who cared enough to take him to the club and give him the opportunity to thrive there. He had a chance to develop his education and made lifelong friends. Boys Clubs and boxing clubs are still valuable safety nets for some communities and I am sure there are many lives owing a lot to those East End boys' clubs. They offer a vital space to breathe and grow in. Do you think anger and hatred are essential aspects of an effective boxing mentality?

Not at all. It seems historically and typically to have been a sport dominated by poor, or immigrant poor men, not violent and angry men. Boxers have been products of hostile and impoverished environments and boxing can be a way to earn money.

Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

Sugar Ray Robinson famously said 'I ain't never liked violence. With some exceptions, boxing in the ring is about discipline and tactics, not loose, chaotic anger. Bobby's alcoholic father Joe, once a talented boxer himself, is a show of the man he once was.

Do you think alcohol plays the role primary antagonist in Boxer Handsome? It's definitely a symptom of an ailing masculinity. Drink is used when Joe and Bobby can't communicate with the world. Alcohol acts as a numbing agent for Joe, who can't function in a world without the definition boxing offers. Is the hostility between the various ethnic communities that orbit Bobby's boxing club anything more than the disenfranchised lashing out those who different? It's a shared imagination stifled by having nothing and characters kick out for space.

The environment becomes full of folk tales and rivalries. As part of your research you spoke to trainers at boxing clubs. Do they still feel that the clubs have a central role in their local communities? Very much so. Especially at Crown and Manor. Maureen, who has worked there for many years, has talked about the care and development the club gives to young lives in the area. It's socially nurturing too, friends are made and structures put in place. It's a home away from home and matters as much now as it ever did.

Did you find it difficult to write about women whose fortunes were so often controlled by feckless men? There were aspects that were challenging, but the novel presents a corner of the world that doesn't share my values. It's not my book, it's theirs. What I did try to ensure was that the female characters had interior lives and voices and were instrumental to the narrative, not outside it.

Can you tell us anything about what you'll be writing next? Theresa keeps coming into my head. I am very fond of her and feel she and Bobby were too big for the same book.

Boxer Handsome

It feels like there might be another story born from this landscape. She probably deserves a narrative of her own. I'd like her to survive. Past Events for this Author. Foyles Bookshop. Sign In.

Anna Whitwham

Refine Your Search. Browse by Category. View Basket. All Children's Books. Yanked up by their collars at Clapton Bow Boys Club, taught how to box and stay out of trouble. All up for a fight.

Anna Whitwham The personal website of Anna Whitwham

Anna Whitwham's first novel does not read like a first novel. It is lean, polished and fit as its subject. Outstanding and compelling Called to mind the prose of the great Nell Dunn and reminded me of the vital, good fighter that the novel form is.

This story is just as much about territory and escaping who you are, as it is about boxing. Full of sober realism and broken dreams, she's got the sort of narrative that would make Shane Meadows sit up. A genuinely impressive debut. Boxer Handsome does everything great fiction should, offering up characters who stay with the reader long after the end of the book, giving an almost filmic vision of places and people, and revealing a world that most people will never even think about.