GLASGOW, 2019. Sharon has rushed home at the news her mother has been admitted to hospital. It’s clear Senga’s life is coming to an end. As Sharon gathers family and friends together to say goodbye, Senga, as always, does things in her own mysterious way. She instructs Sharon to find the red diary she kept in the 1970s and to read it. There’s something Senga needs to talk about while she still has time. The journey into her mother’s past is both shocking and surprising, forcing Sharon to re-evaluate her own childhood, her marriage and what she wants her own future to hold.
GLASGOW, 1976. Life in the tenements of Shettleston is a daily struggle. You need your wits about you to survive, and your friends. Senga has both in spades: she is part of the Shettleston ‘menage’ alongside her friends Bunty, Sandra, Philomena and Isa, and whatever life hands to them – cheating husbands, poverty, illness, threats and abuse – they throw something back just as hard. These women are strong because they need to be. And they never, ever walk away in times of crisis – as Sharon is about to find out.
I don’t want to shock anyone but I preordered this book and read it during the month in which it was received. I’m feeling very proud right now. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gave it a hearty 4 stars (4.5 on StoryGraph because I love a half star).
I am a huge fan of Janey Godley and I enjoy her comedy a great deal. She, to me, feels like a natural storyteller and this made me feel a little apprehensive about reading this book. I wasn’t sure if a skill for storytelling on social media would translate to fiction and I feel like it really did.
I can’t resist a dual narrative tale. It’s very much something that I really enjoy. This was sort of dual narrative as the chapters flipped between Sharon in the modern day and Senga’s diary entries from the 1970s. It’s so long since I’ve read a book that relied on diary entries and this brought me back to my youth when I enjoyed Adrian Mole. I didn’t expect to get the warm and fuzzy glow of nostalgia from this book but the diary format gave me just that.
This was a very quick read. It was written in a very conversational way which made it so easy to read 100 pages before realising that you’d just read 100 pages. While it’s not important for me to enjoy the characters in a story, I loved the characters in this book. I especially loved all of the women from the 1970s diary entries. While this book was filled with moments of laughter, it also had moments of sadness with the women experiencing great difficulties such as poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism etc. This book could so easily have been a very depressing read but it felt full of hope. Those women were just so strong and supportive of each other and this made my heart so happy.
I really enjoyed the way that the diary seemed to help Sharon deal with her marriage coming to an end. I would like to say that if you’re on a break and your husband is off getting romantic with a yoga teacher, that’s probably more of a break up than a break. It was basically like accidental therapy for Sharon.
I loved the element of mystery that arose from the diary entries. I did see the reveal coming but I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed the journey to the reveal. It wasn’t a huge spoiler (to me, from me).
I am very much a fan of having old lady characters in fiction. Perhaps because I never had grandparents, I just love a wee old lady character! This book was filled with them and this made me so happy.
I have never read any fiction by this author before as this was their first fiction book but it was a really enjoyable, at times, emotional read. I’d definitely read more from them. Also, the diary was written in a big red book…and the hardback, when removed from the jacket (I can’t read a hardback while in it’s jacket) was also red! Coincidence or design? I’m not sure but I loved that!