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  • Alistair Braidwood

The Trick is to Keep Breathing…

This month’s Dear Scotland column, out today, looks at Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Published in 1990 this novel introduced readers to one of the most interesting and diverse writers of the late 20th century.

The Trick is to Keep Breathing is a novel which is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly it deals with the subject of mental illness in a serious and empathetic way, but never sentimentalises or pulls its punches. There is an honesty and a determination to make the reader understand how difficult this time in protaganist Joy Stone’s life is that makes this an exhausting read a times, but it is an important read and a rewarding one.

The second reason this novel is important is because of what it signified. Along with A.L Kennedy’s collection of short stories Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains, which was published in the same year, Galloway’s debut heralded the beginning of new Scottish women’s writing. The previous twenty years had been dominated by male voices, but the next twenty would see writers such as Zoe Strachan, Laura Hird, Anne Donovan, Louise Welsh and the great Ali Smith follow Galloway and Kennedy, both of whom would continue to write interesting and inventive prose, to provide Scottish writing with a more representative balance in terms of gender.

The full Dear Scotland article can be read here .

Next months column will deal with Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and I’m really looking forward to hearing other folks thought on that.

The next 5 novels under discussion are: Irvine Welsh Trainspotting (April) Louise Welsh The Cutting Room (May) Gordon Legge The Shoe (Jun) Alan Bissett Boyracers (Jul) Iain Banks The Wasp Factory (Aug)


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