Set in 1950s London amidst the gritty and violent world of boxing, this beautiful and brutal debut is the story of one man’s struggle to overcome the mistakes and tragedies of his past.
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Jack Munday has been fighting all his life. His early memories are shaped by the thrill of the boxing ring. Since then he has grown numb, scarred by his bullying father and haunted by the tragic fate of his first love.
Now a grafting boxing manager, Jack is hungry for change. So when hope and ambition appear in the form of Frank, a young fighter with a winning prospect, and Georgie, a new girl who can match him step for step, Jack seizes his chance for a better future, determined to win at all costs.
Inspired by the author’s boxing grandfather, the novel is at once a startlingly poignant exploration of love and family loyalty, and a proud evocation of the strength of relationships formed in a violent, ambitious, male-dominated world.
Independent on Sunday: Paperbacks of the Year13 December 2015
A wonderful first novel by Emily Bullock, which conjures the boxing milieu of pea-soupy 1950s east London… Like Fat City, The Longest Fight is really about the fragility of masculinity… But Bullock’s moving, punchily written novel also gives attention to the wives, sisters, and daughters affected by boxing’s masculine codes.View source
Independent on Sunday19 April 2015
Boxing’s high stakes make for rich fictional territory, and novelists from Ernest Hemingway to Vladimir Nabokov to Joyce Carol Oates have been drawn to it. And now we have Emily Bullock’s debut The Longest Fight, a fine addition to the canon of boxing literature… And Bullock too, is alert to boxing’s nobility, as well as its barbarity, in this grittily impressive first novel.View source
The Times7 March 2015
This first novel cries out to be a black-and-white British film… The backdrop of London is splendidly done – all crusted soot and swirling fog – and the boxing scenes have a terrific vigour and excitement.View source
Press Association3 March 2015
Emily Bullock’s debut novel is captivating in its beautiful portrayal of grief and love. The reader is drawn into 1950s London and immediately thrown into the sweat, passion and desperation of the boxing ring. Bullock’s intricacy and originality of theme complement the complex yet endearing protagonist and from the opening of the novel, the reader is rooting for Jack’s success. Page by page, Jack and his life become all the more real, until he fills the reader’s imagination and the novel can’t be put down. Brilliantly written, genuinely engaging: a great read.View source
Ink Pantry27 February 2015
In telling this often harsh and painfully honest story, Bullock employs some key weaponry from her heavily-stocked writing arsenal… Images are so easily conjured to mind, via some quite delicious phrasings and descriptions and Emily Bullock allows the reader to feel that they are right there within the pages… This is an astonishing, wonderful, well-crafted novel and most highly recommended.View source
Pamreader15 February 2015
I was knocked out by the depth of the emotional punches in this stunning debut novel. Emily Bullock had me on the ropes, wrung out, cried out and then delivered a heart-wrenching blow in the final, pitch perfect, not a word wasted, lines of the last chapter… The story within will leave you feeling emotionally battered, bruised and marked with a new understanding of life, love and everything that's worth living or dying for, as you weep for Jack and his longest fight.View source
Fiction Is Stranger Than Fact12 February 2015
Reading Emily bullock's prose is like taking a master class in how to write. Every word is well considered and precisely chosen, and resonates perfectly. The boxing world, and the setting of 1950s London are both brought to vibrant life. The beautiful language used is accentuated by its juxtaposition with the brutality of some of the subject matter… This is a skilfully written and intelligent novel with multiple layers. For its vivid portrayal of another world, and its recounting of a story to break your heart, I highly recommend it.View source
Workshy Fop10 February 2015
[The Longest Fight] is a rich character piece, a dark story of obsession and sacrifice… History bleeds into the narrative… Bullock creates vivid scenes, particularly the crowded boxing venues, and the dialogue is very believable throughout. The tension is sustained to the end, and the writing never lapses into sentimentality. Ultimately, this is a book about people getting in too deep, and finding it impossible to escape the situations that they have created through their past actions.View source
Sweet Delights8 February 2015
Compelling and heart-wrenching debut… The novel really took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and I really enjoyed it. Bullock’s characterisation is sublime and each character is wonderfully individual. The setting of the seedy and dark side of London added real grit to it. An astonishing debut from an author whose star – I am sure – is set to rise.View source
The Skinny2 February 2015
With her debut novel Bullock shares something special – a clear understanding of her subject matter, and a talent for developing her characters in a way that leaves you craving more. Tragic elements evoke emotion, and through clever technique Bullock is able to translate the character's surprising actions. View source
Londonist20 January 2015
The plot unwinds itself slowly in languorous prose which, in general, feels like savouring a hearty meal… The real meat, however, is in the depiction of pre-war and 1950s London: Peckham and Soho in all their smoggy glory. We got lost in this world of backstreet boozers, sweat-reeking boxing clubs, trams and the struggle to make good (the real ‘longest fight’). Highly recommended.View source
The Longest Fight is all about pain - hiding it, inflicting it, feeling and not feeling it. The view we get of the ring, the lives of the boxers, and the austerity of post-war London are stunningly real. And that is its wonderfully original touch - we see outside of the ring, there are sisters, lovers, aunts and wives. The voices ring so true it’s as if we are back in the 1950s, right in the stinking, rat-infested under-belly of the capital. We get to smoke, eat and yearn with these characters, to know what a hole in your shoe really means, and what it’s like to lose – and, occasionally, to win. It’s a world in which dreams of escape soar, thrilling and captivating us, but it’s a world where getting hit and staying down is not an easy option.
Sandy Lieberson, producer of Performance
Emily Bullock’s writing is like a finely honed weapon that plunges you into the depths of London’s 1950s world of boxing and the underbelly of a society struggling to survive. Full of characters so realistic, colourful and heartbreaking with a story that never fails to surprise. The Longest Fight is a brilliant debut novel by a writer from whom you will want to read more.
Atmospheric and elegant storytelling with a strong sense of authentic detail in everything from the sootiness of the post-war London air to the glamour of a nightclub. The characters are rich anda live, including the unforgettable Jack Munday, whose youth and adult years are expertly interwoven in a taut exploration of how or how much an individual can overcome a damaged past. An intimate and original view of the world of boxing and the men and (importantly) the women involved in it.
Historical Novel Society
Bullock’s London is the real winner in this book. It’s a gritty, dark world rebuilding from the Blitz, and the perfect place for Jack to explore the wreckage of his own life… In her story about redemption and hope, Bullock’s writing is as taut as the fighters in her ring.View source
The Longest Fight tells a gripping and nuanced story about boxing and London in the 1940s and 50s. Emily Bullock brings a new sensibility to the way the sport is evoked and has produced a boxing novel that is both compelling and original.