A superbly rendered first-person narrative about a depressed woman who may or may not be getting better, this novel was first published in Scotland and shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. Galloway's sheaf of stories, Blood (1991), was seen here as bleak, powerful, uneven. Here, Galloway all but drowns herself in her scrambled heroine, Joy Stone, a 27-year-old drama teacher who lives outside Glasgow with trembling nerves and a superfine sensitivity to all shades of overcast. Be warned, Galloway's lyric psychological realism is as dense as Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, her page an inventive litter of relentless subjectivity. Joy Stone is not the manic-depressive her name implies; she's just depressed and locked into endless black chat with herself as she reads horoscopes and letters to an advice columnist (``Dear Kathy, Please help me...''). She obsessively cleans her living room, prepares tea and biscuits for a visit from a health visitor from the social service that pays her rent (the overweight health visitor seems as depressed as Joy), goes through her skin-sizzling bathing ritual, throws out fresh food she finds viscous as plasma, uses nail-scissors to keep her pubic hair neat, perfumes between her toes, skips work often, refuses to talk with her psychiatrist about the accidental drowning of her lover and retreats inward. (``Tears drained backwards into my ears. I was floating up toward the ceiling, inflating with something like love: serene and distant as the Virgin Mary, radiating truth from the halo of stars round my head. I knew so much''). The end: midnight whisky-pictures of Joy as a mermaid in black waves. A woman with more problems than you, dreadfully well done.
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