Nuala Casey

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Soho, 4am –

‘Thought-provoking and intelligent, Nuala Casey’s debut is one to savour.’
Elizabeth Haynes
Introduction –

6th July 2005. Great Britain has just been announced as the next host of the Olympics. The euphoric crowds pour forth from Trafalgar Square into the waiting bars and restaurants of Soho.

Dreams, drugs, debauchery… Soho is London’s red light district, where any desire can be satisfied in the blink of an eye. But behind it all there is a permanent community of residents whose own sins are concealed by the partying and excess. Zoe, an aspiring model looking for her big break, will discover the sinister world behind the bright lights; artist Seb is hoping he can forget the past by drinking himself into oblivion, while his friend Ade is about to take extreme measures to save his livelihood and relationship. Meanwhile, Stella, Ade’s girlfriend, wonders if this is the night to escape.

Through the dark streets, these four ordinary people walk a dangerous, twisted path through London’s greatest adult playground. Come the morning of 7 July, as jubilation turns to horror, will they have fallen into Soho’s poisoned embrace while the nation’s eyes are turned elsewhere?

Quote –
‘Soho. Even the name sounds like a suggestion, like an invitation to do something deliciously decadent.’
Features –
  • Read an extract


    If you would like a taste of Soho, 4am you can read the first two chapters here.

  • Interactive Map


    Here you can follow in the footsteps of Stella, Ade, Seb and Zoe and visit the places mentioned in Soho, 4am.

  • Win a copy


    Read an extract and answer a question to win a copy of Soho, 4am.

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Groups –

Here you can find a selection of reading group discussion topics on Soho, 4am. Click on each to read more.

  • How important is the clock in Soho, 4am?

    Discuss the use of time as a device for pushing the narrative forward.

  • How far does Ade, with his attitude, his jazz-playing and background, represent 'old' Soho?

    Can you divide the characters into ‘old’ and ‘new’ Soho. Think about the media companies that now dominate the Soho landscape versus the jazz clubs, the family businesses, the brothels and drinking dens. How far does Seb represent both old and new?

  • How important is memory?

    How far can you trust each character’s recollection of his/ her past?

  • Discuss the characters of Stella and Zoe.

    Both grew up a few miles from each other, both left the north east to follow their dreams in London. How similar are they? What sets them apart?

  • Discuss the importance of music in the novel.

    Did you feel the story was playing out to a soundtrack? What does each character’s taste in music say about them?

  • Seb, Stella and Ade all employ coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures of London life

    - binge drinking, bulimia, sex – yet Zoe doesn’t seem to have an addiction. How relevant is this and do you think, perversely, the other characters’ addictions make them less vulnerable to the dangers of the city?

  • The city is one of twenty-four hour noise.

    Discuss the importance of sound in the novel. What does it mask? What does it illuminate?

  • The novel takes place over the course of twenty-four hours.

    Did you find that the tight time frame added to the intensity of the action?

  • Discuss the character of Warren Craig.

    Does he represent the ugly side of the music industry or do you think he was genuinely interested in Ade and his work?

  • Is Paula simply a construct of Stella's imagination?

    Do you think their relationship will survive?

  • Soho, 4am is written in the present tense. How effective did you find this?

    Would the action have felt as immediate if it had been written in the past tense?

  • What do you think Stella's dream symbolises?

    Did it help you gain a better understanding of her character?

  • Compare the way Stella and Zoe navigate the city.

    Stella knows every nook and cranny of the West End and shows her disdain for the tourists who ignore the  ‘unwritten laws’ of the underground. Zoe ignores all these rules when she sits on a Circle Line train and goes round and round to kill some time on an idle Sunday.  What does this say about their respective attitudes to the city and to life?

  • How far does Zoe's behaviour reinforce the idea of her being an 'outsider'?

    For example, the incident on the Circle Line train, her bemusement with Soho, and her trust in Dina and Becky.

  • Soho is seen as both a welcoming and hostile place throughout the novel.

    Which of the characters do you think is the most attuned to Soho and its moods?

  • Is jazz Ade's one and only love?

    Is Ade only ever truly himself when he is playing jazz? Contrast his behaviour at the party with the description of him performing on stage?

  • Did you trust Paula?

    Was Seb’s description of her and Stella as a lioness with her cub an accurate one?

  • Discuss the symbolism of the garden square.

    What do you think this scene represents in terms of Zoe and Seb’s relationship and what happens later?

  • Could Soho be described as the fifth character?

    How far does the location permeate the story and do you feel you got a sense of the ‘real’ Soho by the end of the novel?

  • How far do the inner thoughts of the characters merge with their external environment?

    Were there times when they clashed?

  • Discuss the nature of the friendship between Seb and Henry.

    Do you think it is a healthy one?

  • The characters in Soho, 4.a.m. are torn between their 'regular' jobs and their true passions.

    Is this a reflection of young people in 21st century Britain?

  • Discuss the framing of the novel - between the announcement that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and the terrorist bombings of 7/7.

    Did you get a sense of the change in mood from one of jubilation to one of horror and devastation?

  • How far does Stella's love of water reflect her inner world?

    Discuss the relevance of the bath as her ‘think tank’, her immersion in the Serpentine as a child and the river in her dream. Is Stella the most fluid and unknowable of the four characters?

  • How convincing is the relationship between Stella and Ade?

    Who do you think had the upper hand?

  • Did the book give a sense of the hidden Soho - the drinking dens masquerading as Chinese restaurants, the discreet brothels?

    Is everybody hiding something in the novel?

  • The novel takes the reader on a journey via an invisible street map.

    How effective did you find the various characters’ walks across Soho? Did you find it helped build up a picture of Soho in your mind?

  • How convincing is the friendship between Ade and Seb?

    Is it mutually beneficial or do you think Seb’s drinking has brought the pair together.

  • Soho, 4am gives us a glimpse of London from four perspectives - all very different.

    Discuss these conflicting views and attitudes: are there areas where they overlap; what values or experiences, if any, unite the four characters?

  • A strange new world.

    Discuss the various ways in which London has changed in the years since 7/7?

  • Discuss the summer of 2012.

    Was the jubilation of 6th July 2005 reflected in the Olympic Games of 2012?

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