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430 pages, Hardcover
First published February 11, 2020
Her body hung off the side of the bed, and by the odd angle Shuggie could tell the drink had spun her all night like a Catherine wheel. He turned her head to the side to stop her choking on her rising boak. Then he placed the mop bucket near the bed and gently unzipped the back of her cream dress and loosened the clasp on her bra. He would have taken off her shoes, but she wasn’t wearing any, and her legs were white and stark-looking without the usual black stockings. There were new bruises on her pale thighs. Shuggie arranged three tea mugs: one with tap water to dry the cracks in her throat, one with milk to line her sour stomach, and the third with a mixture of the flat leftovers of Special Brew and stout that he had gathered from around the house and frothed together with a fork. He knew this was the one she would reach for first, the one that would stop the crying in her bones.
I grew up in a house without books, which was not unusual for the time or the place. The working men who surrounded me bent steel for a living, they built fine ships, or traveled miles into the earth to hack away at coalfaces. We sons took after our fathers. We kicked things—first it was footballs, then it was each other—and as we grew, we had little time for books. We sought apprenticeships or we learned trades. We were proud, we were useful.
But the ruling conservative government cared nothing for the honest, working poor. They set about privatizing most manufacturing, removing all support for nationalized labor. In doing so Margaret Thatcher decimated the working man. Her policies swept all heavy industry from the west coast of Scotland in the span of a single generation and did it with all the disregard of a government separated by distance and several social classes. Steel, ships, coal, all gone. The men had nowhere to turn and they became chronically unemployed. They were emasculated and sent by a woman (no less) to rot away their lives into rented settees.
The Glasgow I grew up in was rife with drink, drugs, and gang violence. Margaret Thatcher and her remote Tory government closed all the heavy industry in the city within a generation; ships, steel, coal—all gone. This had a terrible knock-on effect on all employment, and working families had nowhere to turn; fathers and sons were all put out of work, with no hope, and it ushered in some of the worst addiction and health crises in western Europe ..
”Ah just feel angry for the bad things they say about her. You should fight for her.”
“I do fight for her!” he said. “Mostly with herself, but it’s still a fight.”
“How she could no longer pretend that she was nothing like them, that she was better born and stuck only temporarily in their forgotten corner of misery. It was pride, not danger, that made her so angry.”The scenes Agnes faces illustrates how hardship and humour are two sides of the same coin. With a dreary life and unusual characters, humour is always present and ready to light the darkest moments.