Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

CUT SHORT: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City by Ciaran Thapar book review

  • Written by  Dan Richards
  • Published in Books
CUT SHORT: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City by Ciaran Thapar book review
02 Sep
by Ciaran Thapar • Penguin

Cut Short follows the story of author Ciaran Thapar’s time spent mentoring teenagers in Lambeth, one of the poorest areas of London and the UK as a whole, which sits at the sharp end of the current knife crime epidemic.

Having recently moved to Brixton, Thapar signs up to become a student counsellor and coach, determined to forge a connection with local people and learn more about the area around his new home. But the invisible lines of class, race and postcode assert themselves from the start. It’s a steep learning curve for writer and mentees alike.

‘One evening I walked past a community centre near my new home and rang the buzzer. I met Tony, a man in his 50s who was wearing a checked shirt tucked into jeans,’ writes Thapar. ‘“I’d like to start volunteering,” I told him, assuming that such an offer would be welcomed. But it was more complicated than that...Tony had mixed feelings about me. He was, he said, happy I’d knocked on his door. He felt that people arriving to live in Brixton in large numbers, as gentrification proceeded to restitch the fabric of the area, needed to gain a connection to people who already lived there. Yet I looked like an undercover policeman. He reasoned that the boys at the club – who were even more vigilant than he was – would think I was, too.’

The son of a GP and university educated, Thapar didn’t look or sound local. He didn’t have to fear crossing the tracks into the wrong postcode or remain wary of getting jumped or mugged. But through thousands of hours of mentoring he finally won his mentees trust – a central tenet of Cut Short is that actions speak louder than words.

Rather than looking at knife crime in isolation, Thapar paints a compelling and poignant picture of individuals and families working to change their situation; people full of hope and energy, nursing dreams of better lives as well as the trauma of lives cut short. As George the Poet writes in praise of this urgent, informed, important book: ‘Ciaran’s work is informed by lived experience at the frontline of social change. It takes a sensitive and respectful look at the truths less often told.’

Subscribe to Geographical today for just £38 a year. Our monthly print magazine is packed full of cutting-edge stories and stunning photography, perfect for anyone fascinated by the world, its landscapes, people and cultures. From climate change and the environment, to scientific developments and global health, we cover a huge range of topics that span the globe. Plus, every issue includes book recommendations, infographics, maps and more!

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...


Our pick of the 10 best books of 2021 


Tom Chivers is a writer, publisher and arts producer. His…


Our nonfiction reviews for Septemer 


Journalist, author and humanitarian Tara Kangarlou spent four years reporting…


Jonathan Drori CBE FRGS is the author of the international…


Explore the month's best nonfiction reads