A solid, strong first effort from prize-winning Scottish-born writer Cowan, who peers closely into the struggles of a sensitive boy—oppressed by the bitterness and decay endemic to the harsh world of English estate housing in a once-thriving industrial town- -as he tries to hold on to those things most precious to him. Fifteen-year-old Danny, bright but already battered by a less- than-loving home life, suffers a new blow when his grandmother dies. Grandad, long crippled by the loss of a leg, is moved immediately into a nursing home, leaving behind the isolated bungalow where he and his wife spent much of their lives, the extensive garden plot she tended with such care, and a pig, the last of many raised and slaughtered through the years, that Gran had decided to keep as a pet. Out of school for the summer, Danny resolves to take up where Gran left off and all but moves into the bungalow, although he soon finds the gardening beyond his ability and inclination. Meanwhile, his close friendship with a classmate, Surinder, blooms into Danny's first love, with the bungalow providing a refuge from the estate's many racists—his own parents and deadbeat brother included—who would react violently to his taking up with an Indian girl. Only Grandad, whom Danny visits daily in the home, seems to accept Surinder as Danny's special friend, but his health is fading fast without his wife's ministrations. In fact, the idyll that Danny believes he's found in his new circumstances proves to be more illusion than substance: Surinder soon indicates that she has ambitions beyond being a pig farmer, the bungalow is sold, and the pig, in spite of Danny's care, is also dying. Adolescent dreams at odds with postindustrial reality are evoked poignantly and honestly here—in a small but excellent tale of contemporary English society.
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