Brass

Nineteen-year-old Millie O’Reilly is clever, spiky and adored by men, but feels increasingly trapped. She seeks escape in the hedonistic underbelly of Liverpool, getting off on rough sex and
cheap highs.

Shockingly candid and brutally poetic, Helen Walsh has created a portrait both of a city and a generation, offering a female perspective on the harsh truth of growing up in today’s Britain.

Brass is an unsettling but ultimately compassionate account of the possibilities of identity and the
desirability of love.

The author on Brass

"Millie, at least on some subconscious level was an angry retort to the radical feminism of the second wave. In Millie I created a character that fucked, used and violated. Her sex is hedonistic, impulsive, animalistic and absolutely apolitical. I wanted to free the fictional representation of woman from her biological braces, and free the female fuck from gendered analyses, to create an orgasm that was neither political nor guilt ridden, but a bestial howl of pleasure."

Book Reviews

The Telegraph
"Brass depicts the hard, brazen soul of a 21st-century anti-hero... Again and again, she rages, alone and out of her mind on cocaine and alcohol, against the dying of the light." READ MORE

The Independent
"Brass is a novel whose imagery you won't easily scrub off the back of your mind. It is spellbinding and utterly unique" READ MORE

The New Yorker
"Walsh’s prose is rhythmic and carefully judged, and her descriptions are convincingly tactile. Every time an uncomfortable situation occurs, she holds steady."

New York Times
"Helen Walsh's urgent, indelible "Brass" may be the first young woman's coming-of-age novel that reads like lad lit. No sweet crushes here, no "Dear Diary", no girl talk. Instead, "Brass" serves up the hard streets of Liverpool and Millie O'Reilley, a university student with a craving for female prostitutes, cocaine and Stella Artois." READ MORE

The Guardian
"Brass is a very noisy piece of writing indeed, not so much executed as spewed by a woman who is, without a shadow of a doubt, a force of nature. She will knock you sideways." READ MORE

Anna Friman’s award winning essay on Brass
"Brass says a great deal about female sexuality... Nobody should be able to "take" Millie: she wants to do the taking" READ MORE

Read the opening pages of Brass the book

Chapter 1

Millie

We turn onto Upper Duke Street and the view sucks the breath from my lungs.

The whole of the city is aglow and the Liverpool buildings, brightly drenched by the rising moon, reign magnificently in a cloudless sky. I snatch a quick glance to see if she too has been seduced by the vista but the eyes are paralysed by some chemical excess. She's at least three or four years younger than me - a child in the eyes of the law. Yet she wears the spent constitution of a woman who has lived, breathed and spat these streets out all her life. There's mixed blood in her face too, the dark complexion suggesting the Mediterranean while her narrowed eyes hint of the East. It's a good face - awkwardly composed but pretty nonetheless. It doesn't belong to these streets.

We head down towards the Cathedral which pierces the night like some majestic foreboding, and she lopes off ahead, creating enough distance between us to show we're not together. At the graveyard gates, she swings round and instructs me with the flat of a palm to hold back. I watch her elfin silhouette slide down some steps and without warning, dissolve into the petrol blue night. I doubt she'll return and I'm pricked with a mild spur of relief. The effects of the beak and the booze are fast ebbing away now and there's elements of the old me lurking in my subconscious, urging me to turn on my heels and flee.

The night spits her back into focus and she's standing before me again. Skinny legs and fat breasts. Coal black hair pulled fiercely into a high pony. I swoon.

She swings an arm in a beckoning arc and I follow, down a flight of uneven steps, through a dark stubby tunnel and out into a sprawling graveyard. For one lucid moment, a spasm of terror jolts my heart as I anticipate what looms ahead but as we veer down towards the right of the Cathedral which now towers high above us, the brilliance of the moon finds us and all danger is neutralised in the serum of desire. Randomly, she selects a grave, which is located at the remotest corner of the plot. It's flat, wide and practical. She removes her clothes with a routine agility. She's serviced a hundred other punters on this very slab of timeworn concrete though I guess I'm her first female
punter.

'I don't do fish' she said in a coarse Toxteth accent, 'Norra done 'ting round 'ere girl.'

And she was right. I'd scoured these streets, this city, relentlessly in pursuit of brass on many a drug fuelled bender and only twice had I struck lucky. However, once I assued her that she didn't actually have to do anything. Just remove her clothes, all of them, and let me indulge myself, she began to crumble. I produced a fifty and she surrendered.

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© 2018 Helen Walsh