Walking The Lights – Deborah Andrews

Maddie is a young woman trying to find her way in the world as she navigates nineties Glasgow. Recently graduated, she’s a jobbing actor still living a student life, alongside her boyfriend, Mike. They get by on next to nothing, and what they do have tends to go on drugs or alcohol. Maddie’s family life is not all it could be – and the story of that unfolds later on in the novel – but she has great friends, and she has big dreams.

Whilst not specially a ‘coming of age’ novel, Maddie develops significantly throughout the story and by the end, she’s a much stronger, much more focused person with a lot to look forward to. I was quite ambivalent about Maddie to begin with. She’s not an easy character to get to know because she is distant and uncertain. These are traits that Deborah Andrews describes very well – but the downside is that however good the writing it’s still not easy to engage with a remote character. Equally, the pace is quite slow early on and I kept feeling as if I was waiting for something more to happen, for the story to take off.

All of that said, Andrews’ writing – this is her debut novel – is excellent throughout. And, as more of the ‘plot’ came through, together with drips of information about Maddie’s home life, in particular her relationship with her dad, the pace picked up and I found myself warming far more to Maddie and becoming very curious about her story. Two-third of the way through, I was willing her to find a happy ending – so I suppose you could say that as Maddie thaws and finds her way, so did this reader.

Andrews’ depiction of the fringes of Glasgow in the 1990’s struck me as spot on. I wasn’t there then, but I have been more recently and I did spend the early nineties in Bradford, and on both counts the descriptions, the atmosphere and the social issues resonated. I felt I was there – and it felt quite bleak (in retrospect, I should have been more sympathetic to Maddie earlier!) although I should stipulate there are moments that are very funny.

Walking The Lights has been shortlisted for Not The Booker Prize 2016 and this is very well-deserved. All in all, a very thoughtful novel that will quietly but effectively get under your skin.

Highly recommended.

Published by Freight Books and available in paper copy and eBook format.


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