The Shoe is a novel about friendship, and if I can steal a quote from Indelible Ink: ‘I can’t think of another Scottish novel which represents a group of friends so warmly and evocatively. They share more than just history, they have a real friendship that you feel will see them through dark days. This is partly as the novel is set just after the group have left school and still have the roles that were defined in the heat of the playground, and the optimism of youth is still strong enough to block out the feeling that life may never be that easy again.’
The Shoe is packed with cultural references, but these don’t seem forced as can happen with other novels. Legge uses them as part of the common language shared by the four friends and their peers. There is a confidence in the writing that allows a novel which appears to be about very little actually mean a lot. And for those who want to know where Gordon Legge is now, he apparently works as a nursing assistant in Edinburgh. Nursing’s gain is definitely Scottish writing’s loss.
Next month’s Indelible Ink will look Alan Bissett’s debut novel Boyracers. Bissett is building a deserved reputation as one of Scotland’s best contemporary writers, and one of the most versatile.
Boyracers is similar in topic and tone to The Shoe, looking at a group of friends in Falkirk rather than Grangemouth. It could be the novel Legge would have written if he had been born 10 years later. One reviewer described Bissett as a cross between James Kelman and Douglas Coupland. He has shown with his subsequent novels The Incredible Adam Spark and Death of a Ladies Man that he is a writer that can’t be so easily categorized.
The next 5 novels under discussion are: Alan Bissett Boyracers (Jul) Iain Banks The Wasp Factory (Aug) Anne Donovan Buddha Da (Sept) Alasdair Gray Lanark (Oct) James Robertson (Nov)