Waterline by Ross Raisin
|Waterline by Ross Raisin|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Middle-aged Scot, Mick has approached his very own mid-life crisis. He's recently lost his beloved wife Cathy, his job: basically reasons to get up in the morning - how's he going to cope with it all?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: July 2011|
Raisin has an enviable portfolio for one so young, having been named Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year 2009 and his previous novel receiving fulsome praise. No pressure then with this book. The story opens with all members of the Little family paying their respects to Cathy. Some have travelled further than others as they all squeeze into Mick's modest house, somewhere in Glasgow. A less-than-posh part. Mick is obviously numb with the shock of it all (even although his wife's death was not sudden - she had been ill for some time). It's clear that some of the family, distant members, feel uncomfortable and don't quite know how to act.
Raisin uses the Glasgow dialect throughout and his writing style is fluid and natural. It's as if he's writing down the first words that come to his mind. As a Scot myself with connections to Glasgow I thoroughly enjoyed Raisin's take on the dialogue (often stilted but purposefully so) and the way that family dynamics played out here, often very painfully indeed.
We see Mick on auto-pilot as he gets through the days - somehow. He feels a stranger in his own house what with all these folk here and he shares his deepest thoughts with the readers. And as elaborate meals are being shopped for and cooked by his sons and daughter-in-law, I could feel Mick's helplessness but also his heightening frustration and building anger. He just wants to be left alone but is not good at articulating his thoughts. He mumbles his way through his days. As Mick says himself ... when are all of these lot going to get out of the house.
Raisin also does a good line in descriptive prose, especially when it's about Mick's Glasgow as it is now. The multis stand solid in a row like a picket line, looking down over the red tenement streets filing towards the Clyde. But Mick often likes to think back to 'the good old days' when the order books were full at the shipyards and there was plenty of work for those who wanted it. All of this gives the reader a sense of change - and not for the better either. What do the young of the area do now for a job? Well, emigrate to places like Australia, as one of Mick's sons did - and did not look back. Raisin gives a sense of a once proud Glasgow now a little raggedy around the edges, if you like.
As well as the deterioration of the city, we also see, up close and personal, the deterioration of Mick. The family members start to leave, get on with their own lives and Mick is left in an empty house. It's crawling with the ghost of Cathy. There is one son who lives locally but his relationship with Mick has never been all that great. Mother's son and all that. As the bills start mounting and as Mick's old job is no longer available, he begins to wonder how he's going to pay the bills. He's a proud man but at the moment he's a very vulnerable man. He starts to panic. At this point I wondered about his sanity, would he lose the plot? Would he decide to end it all? But the latter option takes a certain amount of planning. He finds himself sleep-walking through his days but at some stage manages to get together enough cash for a coach trip to London. A fresh start and all that ...
I won't spoil the story by saying any more but let's just say Mick is on a downward spiral and leave it at that. And his rather introverted/grumpy character doesn't help his cause either. It's painful and it makes for painful reading courtesy of Raisin. Where's the bright and bubbly Cathy now when he needs her, he thinks at least once a day. Then he remembers.
The back cover blurb says that this novel ... is an intensely moving portrait of a life being lived all around us ... I agree. There are so many people out there coping, or trying to cope without a lifetime partner and failing. A poignant, modern-day read. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try God's Own Country also by Ross Raisin.
Ross Raisin will appear at the Ilkley Literature Festival on 13 October 2012.
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