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Review: Being Emily by Anne Donovan

July 18, 2008 | No Comments

Here’s a clip from my review of Anne Donovan’s Being Emily, from the May issue of The Scottish Review of Books. Being Emily was published in the US on May 1st by Canongate:

“”Something feels haund-knitted about the way we dae things,” says Fiona O’Connell about Glasgow and Glaswegians, in Anne Donovan’s new novel, Being Emily. Still, the O’Connell family is well stitched “thegether.”
Being Emily contains Donovan’s characteristic sly humor and Glaswegian prose. Her blend of Standard English and phonetic spellings may annoy at the “git-go” but it dwindles as the novel progresses, and words ending in “ing” tend to grow back their tails. The not unexpected ending is, (and I’m scrabbling here to find a synonym for “heart-warming”) … toasty, and it will be as well received as Buddha Da, though a cynic might characterize its overall tone – given the ease with which the Sikh and Catholic families interact and various sexual orientations are accepted – as “Glasgow-lite.”
Fiona defines the difference between Emily Brontë’s society and our own as our unwillingness to settle, our fear of greener grass elsewhere. “We are tentative and conditional; all the get-out clauses are written fae the moment we set eyes on someone … we try out partners as we send for things on the Internet, knowing we have thirty days to return them.” We don’t always need to go somewhere other than where we are to make art, she argues, and, often, we need look no further than the one we are with to find love. For Fiona, for Donovan, Glasgow may be haund-knitted but it’s home, and a home is lovingly constructed by a family – stitch by stitch, plain or purl.”

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