"Making a crematorium too hot. That's what I call insensitive." the narrator of Zoe Strachan's debut Negative Space
is full of such sardonic asides, even as she reels with the shock of her younger brother Simon's death, and struggles to cope with his absence. She's a strong woman, whose bluff, tough-talking exterior leads her friends to underestimate the pain she is feeling inside. Unable, and unwilling to find comfort with her family, she returns to a life of anonymity in Glasgow, where depression and a string of empty, alcohol-fuelled encounters convince her finally that her life must change. But this proves impossible in a city whose every windswept corner hides a memory. Then, on a trip to the remote Orkney Islands--part pilgrimage, part escape--the healing process begins, in a way no-one could have predicted. The seemingly pointless death of a talented young man is ultimately rendered meaningful, as his sister discovers a way to continue living.
Negative Space is a powerful, sometimes painful tale, and Strachan's attention to the minutiae of the grieving process is exhaustive. Its chief achievement--and this is no mean feat--is to create a central relationship possessing all the luminous intensity of the best love stories. But this is no romance, nor is there anything predictable about its outcome. Strachan's mission--to write about a love blurred by blood-ties and interrupted by sudden death--demonstrates a courage and an honesty rare in first novels.--Matthew Baylis
'A perfect eye for the small detail . . . the first person voice drifts between past and present with astonishing effectiveness. Intimate and real.' -- Independent on Sunday
'A powerful portrait of grief' -- Scotsman
'A sparkling, fantastical tale' -- Eve
'Strachan understands and conveys raw emotion . . . many readers will connect with this sotry' -- Diva
'The author has a wonderful ear for dialogue and the Glasgow parts pin the city exactly' -- Glasgow Herald