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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mavis's Shoe

Mavis Shoe

It seemed the whole world was crying. The grey sky had turned to mist again and the mist had turned to rain and poured down on us with no compassion or kindness. – Sue Reid Sexton, Mavis’s Shoe

There have been a number of films made and books written about war from the perspective of a child: John Boorman’s Hope and Glory, J G Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, Misako Matsubara’s Cranes at Dusk, Reinhardt Jung’s Dreaming in Black and White, Maureen Myant’s The Search and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. And now we have Mavis’s Shoe by Glasgow writer Sue Reid Sexton.

The narrator of Sue’s novel is a nine-year-old girl called Leonora Gillespie, although she prefers to be called ‘Lenny’ most of the time, an engaging, spunky and determined young lady in any period of history. When we get to meet her for the first time is 13 March 1941, a very significant date in Scotland’s timeline because this was the first night of the Clydebank Blitz.

When people think about the Blitz the first thing that will come to most people’s minds, especially non-Brits, will be the shelling of London and as far as duration goes London received the longest barrage but it was by no means the only city that suffered:

Bombing on a serious scale began in September 1940, as Nazi Germany began to accept defeat in the Battle of Britain … Through October 1940, the Luftwaffe also began to vest efforts in attacks elsewhere. On 15 October, 170 people died in a raid on Birmingham. On 14 November, the Germans launched their infamous attack on Coventry, a centre of the British motor industry … Five hundred and forty-four people died, and two-thirds of Coventry houses were rendered uninhabitable…

Coventry is important because it was the first practical test of a new German system for terror raids. – John Macleod, River of Fire, pp.93,94

This system was known as X-Gerät (X-Apparatus) and was a form of radio navigation which enabled almost pinpoint accuracy. It was not perfect and the British learned quickly a method of ‘bending’ the beams, too late for Coventry but in time to minimise the damage done to Birmingham on 19 November. The Germans’ modus operandi was a simple enough one: following the radio beam a KG-100 ‘Pathfinder’ Group would carpet a town or city with ‘Thermite’ incendiary bombs and the aircraft in the tail would simply steer for the flames. It was this approach that proved particularly effective when the Germans decided to attack the shipbuilding town of Clydebank but what is really sad about it is that the technology to bend the beams was never used.

One Clydebank lady [had this to say]: “It was the sky, the sky was all lit wi’ red, just a red flow in the sky, and comin’ over Windyhill, you could see the whole o’ the Clyde valley . . . Clydebank seemed to be all on fire . . .” – John Macleod, River of Fire, p.113

There were two raids in total and two days later there were only seven houses that were entirely undamaged out of 12,000; 4,300 were completely destroyed. The exact number of casualties has been contested but the most widely accepted figures are 528 dead and 617 badly injured. In 1969 the historian Angus Calder wrote:

Glasgow lost many more houses in the same air raids but its small neighbour had the honour of suffering the most nearly universal damage of any British town. – quoted in John Macleod, River of Fire, p.200

Looking back it seems incredible that no one thought Clydebank would get hit. The local politicians were certainly blasé and many of their constituents had been lulled into a false sense of security. Why did no one spot it? In her novel, The Holy City, Meg Henderson puts forth an opinion:

The bombing on Clydebank was a terror mission. Let the scholars and the intellectuals say what they would. The people who were there, the ones who ran screaming in terror or spent hours trapped under debris, and those who spent weeks looking for families blown into so many pieces that they were never found; they knew better. … [I]t was in the RAF’s interests that the bait was in place, but the bait consisted of families … grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, all pawns in a great big war game. As the uniformed men were cannon fodder, the civilians were bomber fodder. – Meg Henderson, The Holy City, pp.60,61

Of course none of the above is known to Lenny. All Lenny knows is that she’s lost her little sister, Mavis, can’t find the key to their flat and all hell has been let loose around her:

There was a rumbling sound, like the engines at the factory, or a car, only louder, but it was up in the sky, then a screech like a whistle or a scream. It seemed to last a long time. We looked up frozen in not knowing. Then the most almighty explosion shook the ground underneath us and everyone screamed.

A neighbour tries to coax her into an Anderson shelter but Lenny insists she has to find her sister:

I backed up the garden and headed through the close. The shelter door clanged shut and the rise and fall of voices went on behind it.

There was a shoe like Mavis’s by the close mouth. I picked it up and turned it over in my hand. The baffle wall was hot at my back. I wasn’t sure the shoe was hers. I tried to remember her feet, her shoes, like mine only smaller, her shoes that had once been someone else’s. I stuck it in my pocket, where the key should have been.

She stumbles through the chaos and finds herself in Boquhanran Park just at the back of Kilbowie Road. Here she runs into an Air Raid Protection warden known to all the local kids as ‘Mr Chippie’ who is the first person to draw her attention to the fact that she herself has been injured:

I put my hand on my head. It felt odd. My hair seemed to have shrunk and there was sticky stuff like jam over my ear. It didn’t feel like me.

Kilbowie Road circa 1939Kilbowie Road circa 1939

Eventually they make their way to one of the local picture houses, the La Scala – Lenny’s mother has “[g]one to the cinema with a nice young man” as she insists in telling people in so many words – but she’s not there and neither is Mavis. There she receives some needed attention from a kindly woman in a fur coat who thinks she’s a boy and not simply because she gives her name as Lenny; her dress is in tatters. As the woman lifts her up onto a black Formica space beside the sink Lenny sees herself in the mirror:

I twisted myself away from her, transfixed by this boy whose eyes were wide and white in the blackness of his face and I looked at my transformation. I looked for myself in his hair, his forehead, the curve of his black face, the collar of his shirt and peering over the lip of the mirror I saw the pocket and recognised his hand, like mine, was hidden in its shallow depths, fumbling with the shoe. I took my hand out and held it up to the mirror and the boy waved back. He looked as scared as I was, as pleased to be me as I was to be him and I wondered if he’d lost his wee sister and his mum too, and whether he felt sick.

Lenny has pleaded with Mr Chippie to try to locate her sister and mum. To his credit he tries and a while later he reappears with a little girl in tow:

Mavis had no eyebrows and she had no fringe and had big blue eyes instead of big brown ones. She had both hands in the pocket of her dress and there were strips of wet tears through her blackened face, Mavis wasn’t Mavis, or not my Mavis.

Actually she turns out to be a little orphan called Rosie Tomlin who Lenny takes under her wing – she becomes something of a surrogate Mavis, not that Lenny ever gives up the search for her sister because she devotes about the next 400 pages to that task – that would be about a fortnight.

In the La Scala two other important players come into the picture: Mrs Wetherspoon (or Mrs Weatherbeaten as Lenny insists on calling her sometimes even to her face), her teacher, and a neighbour, Mr Tait, who up until this point she only knows as a scary man with a big fancy stick for hitting children with. As it turns out he’s Lenny’s mum’s boss but it’s a while before she discovers that. Anyhow from this point on the book follows the adventures of this little pseudo-family as they set out to, firstly, flee Clydebank as the second wave of bombers – she calls them “killer bees” – approaches and, secondly, to try and locate Lenny’s family.

There’s nothing on the back of the ARC I was sent to indicate who the target audience for this book is other than the line “Parental warning: contains some disturbing scenes” which suggests that we’re looking at a younger audience and the book is listed on I thought I’d ask Sue:

What age range is the book aimed at? The press release says “teen fiction / adult crossover” but if that’s the case why make Lenny only nine?

It seems to be enjoyed by all age groups except young children, who I haven’t given it to because they might find some of the descriptions a bit disturbing. Lenny is young enough not to be overly self-conscious but old enough to understand and personally strong enough to be able to pass comment on what she sees. Kids in those days were generally a bit more mature and often left in charge of quite young siblings. Read London Pride by Phyllis Bottome.

I don’t believe people only read books about other people the same age or gender, in the same way it’s possible to enjoy the company of other people of all ages.

The map at the front of the book was nice but you use a number of Scotticisms (clype, cludgie, close) as well as some period terminology (half-crown, baffle wall) – would a short glossary not have been a help?

clip_image002Baffle walls in front of the entrances to closes

Lenny does explain some of them and I think glossaries can be more distracting than not quite getting the full meaning. Most of these words are self-explanatory and add to the flavour.

The dialogue is not very realistic. I would have expected the teacher to 'speak proper' but I would have felt a little more comfortable if the kids especially had been a bit rougher, 'no' instead of 'not', 'Ah'm' instead of 'I'm' – that kind of thing. Do you think using a more realistic dialect would be off-putting to modern kids or what?

I would need to have written the whole thing in local language. I’m Scottish but not from Clydebank and anything I wrote would have been an insult to them. This is also why Lenny is not from Clydebank herself.

Additionally, while the book is about the bombing of Clydebank it is also about the universal experience of war and the awful effects it has on ordinary people. While personally I do enjoy reading other people’s local languages, I didn’t think it was necessary enough in this instance to do it myself, especially when my aim is to draw in a wider audience. It’s a decision I had to make.

What drew you to want to write about this period for children? We already have Think Me Back by Catherine Forde and Theresa Breslin's A Homecoming for Kezzie.

I don’t think you need to pull your punches when writing for younger people either. I’m with Mr Tait on not lying to kids about things that matter. I was drawn to the subject when we invaded Iraq, particularly with the news that so many journalists were being killed. I realised that most people, myself included, didn’t really know what was going on or even what going to war on another country really meant, so I set out to find out. This is the result. It’s my way of passing comment on the various wars that are happening around the world today. It’s less troublesome writing about a period in recent history than choosing a region or country in the present day.

I also think it is important that the scale of the bombing of Clydebank is known. So few people are fully aware of it.

Having a nine-year-old as your narrator seriously inhibits your ability to comment on what's happening. Might it not have been a better idea to have a grownup Lenny looking back on her childhood?

I disagree. Nine-year-olds think and feel things in a far more spontaneous manner than older children or adults, who are more likely to be calculating and deliberate. They also still have that fantastic sense of fairness, equality, good old down to earth sense, and a great sense of all things being achievable, all of which seem to dissolve with time.

Mavis’s Shoe is a well-written book considering its intended audience. It’s clearly been carefully researched but there’s only a limited amount of information and insight that can be shared because of Lenny’s age although there was nothing stopping Sue incorporating adult conversations which Lenny might overhear which she does do but I personally would have liked to have had a little more. If, for example, Lenny had told the story to her own granddaughter then she could have commented on for example how ill prepared Clydebank was both practically and psychologically for the airstrike, things that even the adults around her might not have thought about at the time for dealing with more pressing concerns although the inclusion of a local politician amongst the survivors might have been a simple way to bring that issue to the fore.

At 424 pages I thought it was going to be a chore to get through it but I read it over two days with no real skimming. The ratio of action to description to dialogue (both internal and external) was about right. There is a simple but helpful map at the beginning showing Lenny’s journey and a few pages of notes about the Clydebank Blitz as well as the Carbeth Hut Community where Lenny’s group ends up fleeing to which was interesting. There was a link to but it would have been nice to have a couple of links to sites talking about the bombing of Clydebank itself like Sue has on her website. I have to agree with the reviewer who said:

This can't have been an easy book to write: getting across Lenny's experience and subsequent trauma, in a way which didn't shy away from the horrific reality of the blitz, whilst maintaining the level of restraint necessary when writing for young people. – Moira Foster, Waterstone’s customer review

The book is published by Waverley Books. They don’t have a website which is a bit odd in this day and age but I checked their back catalogue and it’s almost exclusively devoted to books about Scotland, many clearly aimed at a younger audience. What I can say is that this book is very well produced. The cover is striking, it has French folds which I think adds a bit of class to any book, and there are a couple of striking illustrations on the inside of the cover, one of the Singer clock tower and another of one of the Carbeth huts.

Mavis’s Shoes was published on 1 March and retails at £7.99. It also looks as if it will be available as an e-book for £4.99.


SueReidSextonSue is a writer of fiction, including novels, short stories and poetry. She was also a psychotherapist and counsellor for ten years, specialising in trauma, and before that she was a social worker in homelessness and mental health for another ten years. Now she dedicates herself to writing fiction. For some time now she has been working with Iraqi writer-in-exile Kusay Hussain helping him put his stories into English.

She is interested in the use of writing for health, as a way of understanding the self, for exploring experience, for sustaining identity and enabling the coming to terms with change. This is in addition to creative writing as art. She is interested in working with all groups but in particular those who might use groups or writing workshops for those reasons (and many more).


For anyone seriously interested in reading about the Clydebank Blitz Sue recommends checking out IMM MacPhaill's book, The Clydebank Blitz but the following websites are also quite informative:

West Dunbartonshire Council: The Clydebank Blitz in words and pictures

Scotland’s History: Clydebank Blitz page

Glasgow City Council: The Blitz on Clydebank

Tom McKendrick: Clydebank Blitz

BBC: The Clydebank Blitz – 1941


Sandra said...

What an interesting and informative post. I skimmed the bits about the book but read the interview. I really want to read this and I never read reviews before I read the book. So I'll come back if and when I get a copy and have finished it. I really enjoyed reading and reviewing Coventry by Helen Humphreys a couple years back and it made me want to read more about the time period. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

Von said...

It sounds a most fascinating book by a very well informed author, equipped to write on the trauma of war.

Elisabeth said...

I like the sound of this book, Jim. And I'm inclined to agree with Sue Reid Sexton about the value of writing through the eyes of a nine year old, but it seems many people would find it hard to sustain and to bear.

Maybe we want to come up for air into our intellectual heads to make reading about the experience more bearable. Imagine the experience of war for a child. I almost can't.

Thanks Jim, for another superlative post.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I hadn't heard about that particular bombing - I'll have to read more about it now. The novel sounds intriguing - and I agree with Sue that sometimes a character just has to be the age that they are, irrespective of the intended audience.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m glad the book piqued your interest, Sandra. I really don’t give much away in the review, basically just the setting. I find when I write these reviews I tend to talk in detail about the opening chapter or two but the further I get into a book the less I’m inclined to say. I’ll be interested to hear what you think once you’ve had a chance to read it and I’m sure Sue will too. She has a Facebook page for Mavis’s Shoe too: here.

I agree, Von, although because the book only deals with events in the days after the bombing and also from a child’s perspective we don’t really get a chance to explore just how traumatic this must have been. People are too busy getting their heads down and dealing with the practical day-to-day things of finding accommodation and food. I suppose it’s a bit like losing a relative. At first you have funerals to arrange and houses to clear and it’s not until you’re back home and the dust has settled that the reality actually hits home.

I still have some reservations about having a child as the narrator, Lis. I’ve just, by sheer coincidence, read a book based in the Warsaw Ghetto where the narrator is an eight-year-old boy and it has a very different flavour to Sue’s offering. The thing is, of course, there is no such thing as a generic eight- or nine-year-old and there are pluses and minuses to any approach to telling a story. In the book about the Ghetto for example we do get to see the long-term effects on the boy’s life which, for me, were almost more upsetting than what happens to him in the war. Horses for courses.

And, Rachel, I bet there will be people living in Glasgow who’ve never heard of the Clydebank Blitz. Hope you find the links at the bottom of the article helpful.

Jim Murdoch said...

Liz Small from Waverly Books has been following our comments and sent me this e-mail:

The debate about the 9-year-old voice is interesting. I wonder what you and your followers made of Room by Emma Donoghue? It is in the voice of a five year old.

Well, I’ve not read the book so I can’t comment but I have read The Way The Family Got Away by Michael Kimball where the narrator is a very young boy – I don’t think the age is mentioned but he can’t be more than six I’d guess – and it is interesting how he describes and interprets things. I really have no problems with kids as narrators – they bring certainly and innocence but also a clarity – so there are gains as well as losses.

Anyone out there read Room?

Dave King said...

I must confess that I have not read any war stories as related by a young child. For this one I might break the habit. To me it seems a wholly original idea, though I accept that it is not. As to the matter of her age, top teens would normally be very protective - the girls maternal - to such a child, though they would not normally be keen to make that public knowledge.

Jim Murdoch said...

As you say, Dave, it’s been done before – but hasn’t everything just about? – and it will be done again. I know what you mean about teens but in the this book the older kids tend to get bracketed under the heading ‘bad boys’ although they’re not that bad and war does have a way of making distinctions like that not matter so much. I’m glad I’ve found something else to add to your poor old to-read list and I’m sorry but I think I might have some more coming in the next couple of weeks.

McKenna Donovan said...

Hi, Jim, this is fabulous. I love history, though that's a recently acquired taste. As a child, I hated it, because it was all about memorizing dates. At that point, history had no personality.

I love the line about feeling as if her hair had shrunk. That's so typical of a nine-year-old's vocabulary. and yes, young narrators' voices are hard to sustain, but they can be so revealing when done well. I'll have to add this to my Goodreads to-read list.

I just read your comments over on Ash Joie Lee's blog (, about your writing space. I left mine below yours, but given that I'm not home, my writing space is actually my inhabiting someone else's space. Very dislocating.

Ash said...

This was a great book review. I have to say though, I've never been able to handle movies or books with war as the subject. That said, this one looks good because of the 9 yr old POV.

Jim Murdoch said...

I actually hated History at school, McKenna, and although my appreciation for it (like my appreciation for eating my greens) has grown it’s still not a favourite subject. People on the other hand are irrespective of when they lived and this is a book about people rather than a book about war. And the fact is all the characters in this book feel real, the handful that form the core especially although attention has been paid to even those with only a few lines. All that makes you invest in them, they become real people. I also agree about how hard it can be to sustain writing in the voice of a child. It’s easy enough to mimic the child but it’s getting inside a child’s head that the difficult bit (hence the dearth of kids in my own writing).

As for writing spaces I can, and have, written pretty much anywhere. I have no loyalty to a particular location or dependency on certain trinkets to make me feel comfortable. I simply need the tools of my trade and I’m off and a pencil and paper works just as fine as a computer for me although to be fair I even write poems on a computer these days because I’m never more than twenty feet from one.

And, Ash, I know what you mean but I think that setting always comes in second to characterisation. Great writing lifts you above such petty biases. I was watching The Review Show a few weeks back and they started talking about a show called The Walking Dead which, if you know nothing about it, is about zombies and I fully expected the ‘experts’ to trash it as derivative and basically not very good TV and yet every single one of them gave the programme the thumbs up for exactly the reasons I’ve just stated. Mavis’s Shoe just happens to have the Clydebank Blitz as a backdrop. You could shift the entire storyline to say Berlin (which was also bombed) and the story would work because it’s a human story and everything else is just backdrop.

It’ll be interesting to see how this compares to the next book review I’m going to post where we have a similar situation but set in Warsaw, an eight-year-old boy looking out for his seven-year-old ‘sister’.

awyn said...

A big dilemma for a writer--trying to write "in" the voice of a child. Because words and phrases and ways of describing a thing that an adult writer, for example, wants to say, when placed into the child's mouth, sometimes come out sounding, well, odd. I can imagine a 9-year old. for example, saying "sticky stuff like jam" over her ear, but describing somebody's hand as "hidden in its shallow depths"??? This sudden, it seems to me, change of expression, as it were, takes my attention away from the voice of the child character and it's the adult author I begin hearing instead.

One of the best novels about the effect of war on a kid that I read recently was Australian author Markus Zusak's The Book Thief where 9-year old Liesel Meminger is the subject and the story is narrated by ... Death. From a reader's point of view, you get to 'hear' multiple points of view, from the main and peripheral character(s) without them it's actually being voiced by them. What captivated me about the story, though, was that it was not just about this child or that war but life in general, brought out through the words & actions of the characters. Not unlike (vis-a-vis reader/viewer reaction, at least) that TV show you mentioned, "The Walking Dead". I hate horror movies, especially ones about zombies, but you're right, this one is different: the characters, the situations, the writing, the "story"--make it much more than just about zombies.

Back to 'voice' though, the hardest thing, I think, for a writer who has a story to tell, is writing it in such a way that the reader doesn't get distracted in the process of hearing it by being reminded that> it's being written (if that makes any sense). By the way, I like your added reports on conversations with the authors asking questions we readers would probably ask as well, AND the researched references, historical and literary, if we want to pursue the subject farther. Am just saying, appreciate the time and effort put into these book reviews.
Thanks Jim.

Jim Murdoch said...

I agree totally, Annie, which, again, is one reason why I veer away from writing younger characters. This was what was good about The Way The Family Got Away by Michael Kimball because he tried hard to give the young kids their own unique vocabularies and not to interpret things in adult ways. Lenny is eight though and so a certain degree of insight should be afforded her. A lot of the time she uses expressions that she’s heard grownups use and tells us who she’s picked them up from.

I went to a reading yesterday with Sue and a lady who was twelve during the Clydebank Blitz called Isa. Isa’s recollections were the most entertaining and she was quite complimentary about how Sue had managed to capture the nuances of the time including the language. She also mentioned, although this won’t be much use if you’re outside the UK, that the BBC is showing a documentary about the Clydebank Blitz on BBC1 at 6pm this Sunday which I’ll be checking out.

Marion McCready said...

Great review and excellent questions and answers in the interview. I'll be keeping my eye out for this, it's coming up for the 70th anniversary of the Clydebank bombing isn't it? I heard something on the radio about it this morning.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks, Marion. Check BBC1 on Sunday at 6pm too.

Dave King said...

Your critique reminds me of a project I was involved with in East London. A group of disturbed Teenage girls were given individual responsibilities for looking after some babies and young children - under supervision! The theory was that their "Social Adjustment Scores" might improve. They did - and more surprisingly, so did their I.Q.s. - And there was no need of the supervision.

Jim Murdoch said...

That’s interesting, Dave. I wonder what would have happened if it were boys and not girls: Lord of the Flies springs to mind.

Art Durkee said...

The best novel I've read in this genre, although it was a graphic novel originally, that's been made into a movie, is "Grave of the Fireflies," which is about the aftermath of Hiroshima, told from a young boy's viewpoint. It's truly terrifying and heartrending. Although J.G. Ballard's "Empire of the Sun" also comes to mind, which is a high watermark to match up to.

The historical aspect of the Blitz here is intriguing. But I also feel like this is more post-apocalyptic pornography-of-despair fiction on some level. I'm not enticed to want to read more literature about the darker sides of humanity at this time; we get enough of that on the daily news. That's not to deny that life can be harsh or painful (I know that better than many of late), but at times it rather feels like people like to wallow in the misfortunes of others, in literature, perhaps so they can feel better about their own lives. And I guess it's true that literature (and other storytelling media) can and does reflect current events. The interview brought that out; I liked her smart responses.

I used to work for a book publisher that did a lot of children's and young adult books, and I read widely in the field. I have no problem with a child narrator, sometimes they see things adults cannot. There are several young adult novels that remind me of this new book; one could even call it a sub-genre: children experiencing and responding to wartimes. I could list about two dozen novels in the sub-genre, if I did a little research. So other than the historical info here, which was new to me, and is interesting, I'm not inclined to read yet another book in this sub-genre.

As for teenage girls not needing supervision to take care of younger kids, anyone who has studied archaeology and anthropology together has long since figured out that civilization was invented by women, not by men. "Lord of the Files," indeed.

Jim Murdoch said...

If there was no despair, Art, what would we rise from? Although this book begins with the Clydebank Blitz it really doesn’t dwell on it, a couple of chapters or so. The focus is on how resolute Lenny is in the face of this despair. She refuses to believe that her sister is dead and actively – as much as she is able – searches for her. I also think it was clever to drop a proxy in her lap to divide her loyalties a little: does she take care of the little ‘sister’ she has or continue to seek out the one who she might not have? So, yes, of course, there are post-apocalyptic undertones if you want to go that way. The fact is, however, this is not about some imagined holocaust but one that actually happened seventy years ago and one that was in danger of slipping through the cracks in history.

As for The Lord of the Flies comment I think you might have picked me up wrong. Dave was talking about how caring girls were. What I was suggesting that boys placed in a similar situation might tend to devolve rather than evolve. In fact in Sue’s book the boys all act in a pretty immature fashion after the immediate threat has ended; it’s business as usual as far as they’re concerned: play, play, play.

Art Durkee said...

No, I picked that up regarding "Lord of the Flies." That's what I meant: I was in agreement with you. I guess I was just being too oblique about it.

As for despair and rising above it, that's a conventional wisdom you're quoting, but it's not one that convinces me anymore. For anyone who has been seriously depressed, for whatever reason and there are many possible reasons, or been through the dark night of the soul, the rising above part of the equation doesn't always hold true. Sometimes you just can't rise above it, or find your way out of it. Sometimes the best you can achieve is neutral bouyancy: not sinking, not drowning, but not rising above either. Most days, if you're depressed, neutral bouyancy seems like enough to achieve.

Maybe it's true that "You have to be in hell to see heaven" (William S. Burroughs), but it's also true that just seeing heaven doesn't get you there, and isn't always enough to motivate you get out of hell. I know plenty of people who are a lot more afraid of changing their lives than they are of staying in the hell that their lives are. You can open a door for them, and they won't take it, because change is more frightening than the known hell. Getting to heaven takes a lot of hard work, and there's no guarantee even so.

Crafty Green Poet said...

this looks like a very interesting book. I was interested too in the point about the author's decision not to use Scots dialogue, I like Scots dialogue, but it needs to be right and specific to the area so i thin she made the right decision if she's not from the area the book's set in

Jim Murdoch said...

My experience of depression, Art, is that it creeps up on one. What happened to the Bankies seventy years ago was a literal blitz so there are people who are walking about in shock certainly in fact the one thing Isa said – Isa was the old lady who was at the reading I went to (she was twelve when this happened) – was that there was an overpowering sense of not feeling anything, of numbness. I get the Burroughs comment but this feels more like people not appreciating what they had until they lost it. Mavis was just ‘a little sister’, probably more of a nuisance than anything else, until Lenny is faced with life without her.

And, Craft Green Poet, yes, it’s hard to know what to do in a situation like this. Sue made a choice and it was probably the right one frankly. It was interesting though listening to the kids from Clydebank – there was a class of ten-year-olds at the reading I went to – asking her and Isa questions and listening to the very Scottish accents.

Loren Eaton said...

This looks like a fascinating title on a corner of history I know little about. Plus, it has an awesome cover.

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, Loren, the cover is most striking. It's even more impressive when you see it as a poster.

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