The resolutely quiet and somber third novel from Seiffert, who came to prominence in literary Britain in 2001 with her first novel, the Booker-shortlisted The Dark Room, takes place in Glasgow and moves back and forth between two time frames: "Now, or thereabouts" and the early 1990s.
The central figure in the present-tense sections is Stevie, a native Glaswegian who has returned from self-imposed exile to his home city to work as a laborer alongside Polish-immigrant construction workers but who has not let his family know. The novel centers on the vexed and ever vexing—inescapable—shadow of the Irish Troubles. Stevie is the displaced child of a displaced child; his mother fled Ireland to get away from the familial and cultural legacy of strife and violence, and when, years later, her husband, Graham, a lifelong member of a marching band, finds himself more and more tempted by the radical politics of some of his bandmates (they have links to Belfast paramilitaries) and decides to join them in marching in the Protestant Orange Walk in Glasgow, she disappears again—and Stevie decamps soon after.
Seiffert's use of the Glasgow dialect is simultaneously the biggest stumbling block (for an American reader) and the novel's greatest distinction and triumph; the book is most energetic, persuasive and lively in its sections of dialogue and can seem a bit flat and muted elsewhere, though Seiffert's brio and talent are once again amply on display.