Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

Paul Mendez’s Rainbow Milk (⭐️) was chosen as the next book club read and I’m more curious than ever before about what the girls thought about this debut.  

The book starts with a moving story of a young couple from Jamaica who comes to England lured by promises of a better life. Soon enough they start to regret their decision as they realise they have left paradise for the hell of the 50s Midlands. This heartbreaking story is stopped abruptly and cut to early 2000 where we meet Jesse. He is their grandson, a Jehovah’s witness who is brutally expelled from the community and as a nineteen-year-old leaves the Black Country for London to find his freedom and explore his racial and sexual identity. 

I was very curious to see how Mendez would connect these timelines but Jesse’s story didn’t hold my attention long enough to give me a chance to find out. The detailed way the author writes the story was excruciatingly painful. I can imagine this kind of writing could easily find an audience who would appreciate it, identify with it, and even enjoy it. Even though the book was recognised as an ‘erotic and fearlessly explicit debut’ and highly spoken of by many, I didn’t find it compelling enough to finish. 

There was one thing that really irritated me and put me off badly. Just recently I’ve read an interview with Zygmunt Miłoszewski, one of the best-selling writers in Poland who could not imagine doing product placement in his works. Mendez, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from brand names and uses them without moderation. Whether he is paid for it or not, is irrelevant. Nevertheless, the characters portrayed as those who go to TopShop and pass Cafe Nero and Costa and observe people in All Bar One drinking Guinness to me are just tacky. And if Mendez wanted to reflect the nature of modern London and represent it accurately, I believe there are better ways to do that.