A pleasant, articulate debut in which Glaswegian Cannon records the day-to-day life in one of his city's deep-rooted working-class districts, doing so in the affectionate manner of one who knows the place and its people well. A handful of inner-city dwellers embody most of the passions and tragedy known to humankind. Simon, a reserved but eminently fair man, has the Borough's Post Office in his shop, which he runs with his domineering, close-minded, haughty wife Elsbeth, who has contempt for him and everyone else in the area. One of Simon's customers is pretty Irene, a young mother of two whom he's observed, with something more than compassion, suffering under the cruelty and indifference of her brutish husband McCullen. Sharply looking over them all is the nameless narrator, a newcomer to the Borough with desires of his own, namely for the middle daughter of a middle-class suburban family, a girl who has carried her interest in him far enough to move in with him while she does a resident's stint at the local hospital. Matters come to a head when Simon stops the hulking McCullen from beating his child in the street and receives a broken nose for the trouble. While Simon recuperates and his friends plot vengeance for the deed, McCullen rapes Irene, has his throat cut the same night, and Elsbeth turns away from her man to take the last steps on a course laid out long before—all of which leaves the Borough temporarily in shock. It's nothing a blowout of a New Year's party can't cure, however, and in the end all is as it's meant to be. A bit reductive in its neatness of plot, but, still, a tale told with vitality and feeling, heralding a significant new presence among Scottish novelists.
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