by Michelle Reale
To get the most of this fine collection of short stories, one must read
them slowly, and in some instances, go back and read again. Anne
Donovan, a transplanted Glaswegian, wrote many of the stories in
Glaswegian dialect, a brilliant convention that works on more levels
than one. At first one might worry that they will not "get" it or won’t
have the wherewithal to endure. Quite the opposite is the case. There
is a beautiful rhythm to the dialect, one that is easy to pick up,
letting the reader imagine the tone and feeling of the words on the
page. What’s more is that the dialect, in no way, impedes the story,
but rather enhances all aspects of the experience. The reader can quite
easily conjure up the street scenes of Glasgow, with the stories a
treasure trove of quotidian details of what might be found
Childhood is a major and prevailing
theme: buds bursting, causing pain, growing into who we will be and
having a foot in the worlds of childhood and impending adulthood are
the dominant themes. Donovan has managed to use some very clever
conventions in this collection, including the story Virtual Pals. Two
pen pals, Siobhan from Glasgow (email@example.com) and Irina
(firstname.lastname@example.org) from "Jupiter" embark on a warm
correspondence in which they share details about their lives that
confound and delight one another in the gentlest of ways, with the
metaphor of childhood being a whole different country
It was somewhat surprising to receive your electronic mail since in our
science lessons we have learned that the area of your planet know as
Scot-land is devoid of intelligent life, due to adverse climatic
Your e-mails are just pure brilliant. I don’t know how you manage to
write all they big words. I have to look up a dictionary to find the
meanings of half of them. Miss Macintosh is dead chuffed cos she says
its gonnae improve my English."
Mary, in the title story
tries hard to follow the writing rules in school but can
manage only what the teacher, Mr. Kelly interprets to be
"'So Mary, if hieroglyphics means
Egyptian writing, why do think I am
referring to your script using that term? '
'Because you cannae. . . can’t read
'Precisely, Mary. And since the
function of reading is to communicate,
what point is there in writing something which is utterly
'Ah jist sat there.'
In the end, Mary finds beauty and
resilience in her own "vision,”"
though the beauty is the fact that she is hardly aware of it as such
and has no idea of what future consequences might be.
come to similar conclusions allowing pin pricks of light to shine
through even the most desolate of tales.
Donovan’s stories detail the no-nonsense approach to child rearing
amongst the working class and the often both sad and magical worlds
that children inhabit both literally and figuratively. Donavan’s
writing shines in many ways, but most especially because it lacks a
certain sentimentality that could so easily cloud and obscure meaning.
Instead she writes in a that allows hard truths and stark poignancy
Read two stories by Anne Donovan in the Mad Hatter's Review
|Michelle Reale is an academic
librarian working in a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her
fiction has been published Dogzplot, Verbsap, elimae, JMWW, Blood
Orange Review, Willows Wept, The Blue Print Review, Apt, Pequin, Monkey
Bicycle, Yellow Mama, Diddledog Bewildering Stories, Underground Voices
has published stories that have appeared in anthologies and have been
broadcast on BBC radio. She was the winner of the Macallan/Scotland on
Sunday short story competition in 1997 and a Canongate Prize winner in
1999. Her first story collection Hieroglyphics and Other Stories was
published in 2001. Buddha Da, her firs novel was short-listed for the
Orange Prize in 2003. Her second novel, Being Emily, was published in
2008. She lives in Glasgow.
with Anne Donovan
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