North London is infamous for its stop on the Turkish heroin trade, and this debut novel paints a portrait of a group of characters touched in some way by its tentacles: There's Damla, a Turkish-Cypriot girl growing up in Tottenham, and her mother Ayla, who moved there from North Cyprus in the aftermath of the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots. And there's Mehmet, a mover in the trade, and Ali—who's got big hopes for Ayla.
Crackling with energy, interdisciplinary artist Tice Cin’s debut is a kind of textual collage. It offers vistas of the Turkish communities of north London between 1999 and 2012, in pacy, often impressionistic chapters that glitter with inventive descriptions and are dotted with Turkish terms. This is a novel brimming with evocative renderings of gossip-mongering in grocery shops, belly dancing lessons, 'sweated onions and potatoes … meals that slid oil into you'. Cin’s characters inhabit a noirish cityscape of smoky snooker halls, pawnshops, boarded-up houses ... The nuances of [an] adolescent relationship are finely, unsentimentally and empathetically observed: it is a vision of sisterly love from a writer who understands the potency of restraint. An exhilaratingly idiosyncratic first novel, Keeping the House has 'cult classic' written all over it.
... [a] heartfelt debut novel ... an arresting opening, told, as is much of the book, in a brief, punchy chapter ... Cemile turns out to be a well-drawn character, but the jump is jarring, primarily because the rapid jolt from 8-year-old Damla’s family life to 15-year-old Damla’s relationship with a school friend omits meaningful details about the inevitable transition over the intervening seven years. Perhaps Cin felt that the obliqueness would create tension, but it mainly disorients the reader. And it is the first of many abrupt transitions in a novel that continually moves on before bringing scenes to a satisfying conclusion. Even so, Cin has a gift for evocative writing ... Ultimately, Keeping the House turns into a family saga, coming-of-age story and thriller rolled into one ... The descriptions in [some] sections are precise and vivid, qualities that are sometimes missing in other parts of the book ... Keeping the House is, in many ways, the quintessential first work of fiction: ambitious yet uneven, with flashes that demonstrate the author’s considerable potential. The novel serves up a buffet of genres but never coheres into a satisfying whole.
... a refreshingly unique and vivid debut ... the novel expertly interweaves questions about family, community, trauma and belonging into episodes that are often humorous, sometimes heart-breaking but always poetic ... although at times slightly scattered, Tice Cin manages to offer the reader a totally new and exciting narrative style that feels fresh, confident and powerful. It captures the buzz of London life and lifts the lid on the vibrant culture of the Turkish Cypriot community, giving a behind-closed-doors look at the women who quietly, instinctively keep the wheel of family life turning.