This Booker Prize-winning novel is unusual, to say the least. Sammy is a small-time shoplifter who gets busted one morning after a weekend drinking binge, most of which he doesn’t remember. And somehow he’s completely lost his sight. The story is told entirely in a lower-class Scottish dialect, and it takes a while to get into the language and the cadence:
There wasnay much he could do, there wasnay really much he could do at all. No the now anyway. Nayn of it was down to him. It would be soon enough but no the fucking now. So fuck it, get on with yer life. Sammy had turned back onto his side, he wished he could fall asleep. But the trouble with sleep is ya cannay just fucking. (p. 29)
Got that? How about 374 pages of it, with no chapter breaks? When I started reading, I thought I would really dislike this book because of the dialect and the almost continuous use of the f-word. But after a while, I realized that Sammy sounded just like Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, and he had kind of grown on me. Sammy first finds himself first in jail, and when he is let go and returns home, discovers his girlfriend has left him. Because of his new disability, everything about daily living is a challenge. But there’s humor in his story, too, most notably in the ridiculous bureaucracy he encounters when attempting to register for disability benefits. Sammy’s life has been a hard one, lived mostly on the streets and in pubs, and it becomes clear that he is his own worst enemy, remaining just a step away from complete self-destruction.
I’m not sure I would recommend this book, but in an odd way it wasn’t bad.