Hudson doesn’t shy away from the woozy horrors of sexual slavery but, by leavening her tale with a touching romance, she somehow fashions a morally complex and affecting story that ably sidesteps both sensationalism and despair.
Like her debut Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, it explores the lives of people not generally considered fit for literature and does so with wit and a shrewdness that makes Hudson's subjects zing from the page...Thirst is not a miserable book. The couple are young and the bastards have not quite got them down, yet. Hudson (pictured) is good on the simple treats that can make a day better; "bars of chocolate mottled white over glossy dark", a walk in the park, a charity-shop find. Alena and Dave know the price of things. They own very little and what they possess costs them dearly. What they do have are love, guts, humour and conscience. This is Love on the Dole 21st‑century style, featuring complex working-class characters faced with moral dilemmas.
In both her novels, male violence and control of women are crucial. In Thirst, though, these aspects of male behaviour are countered by a conventional romance – conventional at least in the sense that it involves two people from different worlds coming together through a chance meeting and falling in love against the odds. The love story at the heart of Hudson’s novel might well be a cliché, but it is invested with enough of her ability to get to the heart of her characters to make it feel much more original... Thirst is hardly an easy summer read (despite the title and the ridiculously misleading cover). But it is probably an essential one.