Alan's Reviews > Hieroglyphics and Other Stories

Hieroglyphics and Other Stories by Anne Donovan
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Nov 01, 11

bookshelves: short-stories, read-in-2011
Read from October 02 to 08, 2011

another writer appearing at the Lancaster Literary festival Great Short Fiction day, and someone I'd been meaning to read since I saw Abailart's review

I liked these stories a lot, nearly as good as Agnes Owen (there are many similarities besides the Scottishness). You're reading stories here so rich in dialect that when you type a sentence out you get those red wavy Microsoft lines under every other word, or thereabouts:

We’d go tae the baths every Saturday morning, Agnes and me. Ah’d watch fae the windae, alang the grey, gluthery street, till ah caught the first glimpse of her red raincoat and blue pixie hat turnin the corner, then ah’d grab ma cossie, wrap it up in the blue-grey towel, washed too many times, and heid for the door.

What a wonderful thing - ‘gluthery’: no such word but you know what it means from the context. The author uses language in a rich, uncompromising way that evokes strongly the community the stories spring from. They really sing with pace and understanding, deeply rooted in the area (Glasgow) and its various communities. The plots are usually simple, the first two are childhood pieces involving glitter pens (yon glittery stuff that comes in wee tubes), and I was worried that all the stories would be similar, and many are childhood/school stories (not all involving glitter pens), but they move on through middle age with themes of illness, divorce, affairs, to end up in old age with ‘Zimmerobics’ about someone in a nursing home who gets a new lease of energy when an exercise instructor enters her life. Again a simple but effective piece.

A couple of other stories are more complex but just as striking. Donovan also experiments in pieces like 'Dindy' which begins:
Dindy dindy dindy says Tommam.
Bingy bingy bingy.


Sprinkled throughout are wonderful sentences like They’re all the same, men, anyway, there’s not one of them’s worth the heat in his drawers.

I have to say that I spent a pleasant evening with Anne after the readings so I may be biased.
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Alan yes trific, more later


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