Teens' Book of the Month: Trouble on Cable Street

Author: Joan Lingard | Age category: 12-16

Synopsis: London, 1936. Riots are brewing in the East End as a country broken by one war lives in fear of another. With one brother run away to fight for revolution in Spain and the other lured in by the increasingly powerful Fascist movement, Isabella is faced with a conflict of her own. As she battles to keep her family from falling apart.  Isabella wonders what kind of a future she can hope for in a time where nothing is certain and trouble lurks on every corner.


1936, and the civil war in Spain has broken out. Fourteen-year-old Isabella lives on Cable Street with her Spanish mother and her English father. In London, it’s a difficult time as so many people are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. The British Union of Fascists has used the deprivation as a political springboard and are rallying for support and encouraging recruitment.

Isabella’s older brother, William, decides to go to Spain to help the Republicans fight against the Nationalists. Isabella's other brother, Arthur has become secretive and elusive. Isabella fears that he has got mixed up with the fascist Blackshirts. During this time, Isabella befriends Rupert but Rupert stands for everything that Isabella hates and our heroine finds herself at constant odds and faced with much conflict and many contradictions.

Isabella just wants to see both of her brothers safely back home. But what will happen to them? They are constantly divided by political beliefs, and fighting for very different causes at a time when everything is changing and the future is ambiguous.


This is an extremely enjoyable coming-of-age story which also highlights contemporary issues and modern uncertainties. Lingard has really encapsulated 1930s London and the atmosphere at the time. The imagery is vivid and troubled Cable Street comes to life. It’s a dynamic and exciting story and Isabella is an admirable, strong and determined heroine. A great read. 


We have 5 copies of Trouble on Cable Street to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer this question:

Joan was born in Edinburgh but where did she move to when she was 2 years old? 

Send your answer to Miriam Morris at miriam.morris@scottishbooktrust.com. Competition closes on Friday 27 Febraury. Entrants outside the UK must cover postage.

Q&A with Joan Lingard

Did you enjoy the research that you did for this book?

Very much. It immersed my mind in a different time and place. London in the years before the beginning of World War Two was an unsettled place. People were fleeing from the advance of Hitler into their countries in Europe and coming to seek asylum in the UK. A time of change is a good time in which to set a story. There is a sense that things are shifting and will never be the same again. People are worried, fearful of change, often distrustful.

What was it about Isabella that made her a satisfying character to write?

She is strong and feisty and not easily intimidated. She stands up for herself.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

The best thing about being an author is that you can immerse yourself in another world and let your imagination run freely.


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