by Alex Morgan
This quirky first novel set in the fictional village of Craskferry (Cra’frae to the locals) in the Neuk of Fife, is a sad, but sometimes very funny, story of Paula, a young woman crippled by grief at the loss of her brother.
Paula leaves London for Scotland to the holiday place, Craskferry, where the family visited in happier times. She tells no-one where she’s gone. Not her parents, not her friends nor her boyfriend, Ollie. The only person who knows exactly where she is, is Andy, the man with a van who drove her and her belongings, including her cherished tandem, on the long and winding road to Scotland. In Craskferry she encounters a motley assemblage of individuals, including her prim but sympathetic landlady Mrs McIntyre; Nora, the kindly café lady; the Scottish-Italian chip fish and chip shop owner, Felice: (“Up here battered fish is always haddock. Fish ‘n chips is a supper, Irn-Bru is ginger and a fried Mars Bar is a heart attack”). But in particular she befriends a young person called Sanders who has a scrawny dog called Bovis and an obsession with penguins. Sanders, like Paula, is going through a huge personal crisis and together the unlikely friends embark, in tandem, on a shaky road to recovery.
Alex Morgan tackles difficult issues in this accomplished first book, including grief, and gender identity, with sensitivity and lots of good drole Scottish humour.
Published by Hookline – 239pp
TANDEM was the winner of the Hookline prize. All of Hookline’s published novels are chosen by book groups from around the UK. Manuscripts come from students and graduates of MA writing courses. They submit the first three chapters, reading groups create a short list of interesting work, and those writers submit their complete manuscripts for book group review. They publish the works that book groups endorse as well-written and engaging.