Novels from current Scottish authors are assumed not only to be full of the kind of dialect that on screen would require subtitles, but also fraught with edgy violence, rage and angst. Donovan's delightful debut domestic comedy has the dialect all right (though it's very easy to follow after the first few pages) and a few darker undertones, but is essentially sunny and engaging. Jimmy is a Glasgow house painter, a genial giant of a man who seems happy in his marriage to Liz and in his musical teenage daughter, Anne Marie. But he yearns for something beyond the quotidian and finds it in the local Buddhist center, where he is soon spending much too much of his time, in the view of his wife and daughter, learning to meditate and hanging out with the "lamas." Soon he is separated from his family, while Anne Marie becomes involved with a Pakistani school friend in an all-absorbing music contest, and Liz falls into a flirtation that leads to a family crisis. Donovan's sense of the intimacies and pleasures of these small lives is acute; her ear for their talk, alternately tough and tender, is sharp; and she manages to make her little family at once likable and intensely vulnerable. American readers may be astonished to find how much, especially in terms of popular culture, they have in common with contemporary Glaswegians. (Apr.)
Forecast: This may seem at first like a hard sell, but its very engaging characters and the universal nature of its family drama should please anyone in search of an absorbing and touching read.
Release date: 03/01/2004