Tag Archives: Glasgow

#BookReview ‘Paper Cup’ by @writerkcampbell #contemporary

Homeless Kelly witnesses a horrific accident in Glasgow which sets her on a course towards her hometown in Galloway. Paper Cup by Karen Campbell is Kelly’s story as she faces her long-buried demons and receives gestures of kindness from complete strangers. Karen CampbellA new author for me, I found the first few pages slow to get into but I persevered and was glad I did. There are many ‘finding yourself’ road trip novels – THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce being the first that comes to mind – and most are uplifting, verging on the sentimental. This one is different. Campbell’s gritty portrayal of Kelly’s struggles, and finally the truth of why she is a vagrant, challenges the reader to be open-minded and compassionate.
A long way from home, cadging pennies to buy the alcohol which keeps her going from day to day, Kelly blocks out troubling memories until a lost ring gives her purpose and a forlorn puppy becomes a companion. Re-learning to love and care for Collie [short for Cauliflower] redirects Kelly’s self-focus and gives her strength to put one step in front of the other. Kelly originally starts walking in order to return an engagement ring to a drunken bride who, on her hen night, didn’t realise that in the pile of coins she left at a dosser’s feet was her diamond ring.
This is a generous, sympathetic portrayal of a character who is lost in so many ways and Campbell encourages us to be kind and less judgemental. In order to move on emotionally, Kelly must open the box full of bad memories and be kind to herself. During an encounter with a minibus of tourists, Kelly is given a leaflet. ‘Pilgrims’ Progress. Travel through Scotland in the footsteps of saints and sinners.’ She decides to follow the map. Four places in four days. ‘Her own wee walkabout’ alone amongst the heather. ‘And the best of it is, no one knows she is here.’ Meanwhile Kelly is pursued from Glasgow by friends, and a journalist keen to tell her story.
There is Glaswegian slang but after a few pages I just learned to go with the flow of language. Kelly walks through a beautiful part of the world and Campbell’s description brings this to life, always tempered with edginess which brings us back to Kelly’s past and present, the sad reasons for her homelessness and alcoholism.

If you like this, try:-
The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman’ by Julietta Henderson
Etta and Otto and Russell and James’ by Emma Hooper
Mobile Library’ by David Whitehouse

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PAPER CUP by @writerkcampbell #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Sj via @SandraDanby

Book review: The Long Drop

Denise MinaGlasgow, 1950s. Three men meet in bar. One leaves. The remaining two men talk and drink until the early hours. They are unlikely drinking companions. A businessman, and a criminal. What are they talking about? Which one is telling the truth, or are they both lying? The Long Drop by Denise Mina is her fictional version of the night of Monday December 2, 1957 and the subsequent murder trial. It is a chilling story. Peter Manuel was a real murderer in Glasgow and the Burnside Affair happened, which makes this such an unsettling read. A woman, her sister and daughter have been killed, the girl was also raped: this is William Watt’s family, his wife, his daughter, his sister-in-law.

Manuel, a known criminal, writes to Laurence Dowdall, Watt’s solicitor, to say he knows the location of the murder weapon, a gun, and so Dowdall arranges the meeting at Whitehall’s Restaurant/Lounge. Suspected by police of murdering his own family, William Watts meets criminal Manuel desperate for answers. But for a naïve, boasting businessman, he is keeping strange company. All is not as it seems.

Mina populates her story with living/breathing Glasgow in the 1950s. If you have been to Glasgow, Mina’s words bring it alive. It you don’t know Glasgow, your imagination conjures up a crystal clear picture. “This city is commerce unfettered. It centres around the docks and the river, and it is all function. It dresses like the Irishwomen: had to toe in black, hair covered, eyes down.” Dowdall drives a maroon Vauxhall Velox.

This is the first book by Denise Mina which I have read. I really like her writing style. Concise, why use six words in a sentence when one or two conveys the meaning?

Read more about the real Peter Manuel here.

If you like this, try:-
‘An Uncertain Place’ by Fred Vargas
‘Little Boy Blue’ by MJ Arlidge
‘The Nationalist’ by Campbell Hart

‘The Long Drop’ by Denise Mina [UK: Harvill Secker] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LONG DROP by Denise Mina #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2pR