Portrait of a Marriage – I

March 12, 2010 | No Comments

Robin Jenkins is Scotland’s answer to William Trevor. He doesn’t quite have the same delicacy of touch or lyricism, but he does understand the daily trials of ordinary working class lives and the bargains struck and broken with marriage and faith. Willie Hogg (1993), a retired hospital porter from Glasgow “had one of those fortunate natures that steady the world.” He’d been married to Maggie, plain of face and, apparently, simple-minded, for over 47 years, but it is only now, as they travel to visit her long-estranged sister in America, that he begins to understand her. Jenkins manages to combine pathos and humor in equal doses (a particularly Irish /Scottish trait, if I may risk such a racist remark) and if at times his Glesga folk seem stereotypical, I must remind myself that all too often, people everywhere, in every nation, turn out to be, a little bit, if not a lot, exactly as we’d expect them to be. Willie Hogg is a tragedy, as life must be when one risks introspection. Willie’s wrestlings with faith after years committed to his Socialist Sunday school principals give the story an undertow of gravitas and the book reaches no easy conclusion beyond time simply going on…

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