Andrea Dunbar’s teeth weren’t black. “Brush ’em every day, twice,” she indignantly says while scanning a tabloid profile that paints her as “a genius from the slums”. Dunbar, a playwright whose raw tales of working-class life took her from a Bradford estate to the Royal Court and the multiplexes, is never comfortable with the attention her talent brings; Stripe’s affectionate, unsentimental debut novel reveals a young woman who struggled constantly with her writing and the people around her. Dunbar grows up on the Buttershaw estate, a place of gossip, daytime drinking and waiting for the giro. Even Bradford feels like another world, but Dunbar’s early writing, encouraged by a teacher after she has a miscarriage at 15, is impossibly exotic to the London literati. Stripe tells of her success via Rita, Sue and Bob Too, as well as alcoholism, domestic violence and self-sabotage. Stripe’s narration can feel a little flat compared with her dialogue, which snaps and prickles and brings a talented, troubled woman to life. But she gives an important story a real spark: Dunbar’s energy and mischief bubble in the bleakness.