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Living Nowhere

by John Burnside

Beautifully written and lyrical, but this is a dark, unsettling novel set in the 70s in the bleak, industrial new town of Corby. For the largely immigrant community, home is somewhere else and the dream is to return to the mythical homeland. Despite the subject matter it reveals the knowledge that beauty can be found in the bleakest of places.

Extract

They didn't want home, they wanted the same Scotland the tourists got. Scotland might have been home once, but it had never been the home they talked about now, it had just been estates and steelworks and poky wee shops and pubs that looked like outsized Anderson shelters with grilles on the windows and grey, shamefaced men gathering around the doors at six o'clock, waiting for opening time. They pretended there was something back home - wherever home might be - that was better than what they had here, but Derek knew, just as they did, that home was coal and shipyards and steel and the mythical communities they dreamed about were just estates and tenements, no better or worse than the Beanfield, as bad mostly, as the Exeter, where dogs roamed wild and the one pub was nicknamed the Bucket of Blood. There was nothing here that they hadn't brought with them, these misty-eyed Scots and Irish and Poles: the home they talked about so fondly was a lie, and they knew it.

Parallels

Our Fathers by Andrew O'Hagan
The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
 

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