Fiona is one of 4 children. Her brother Patrick is older than she is (by quite a few years) and then there are the twins, Mona and Rona, a good few years younger than she is. They live in Glasgow with their mother and father and the beginning of the novel introduces all of the characters with a little information about them; making it easier to know who is who.
Narrated in first person by Fiona, we are told the story of her life from being a child until she has become a young woman. It is a nice coming of age story. Fiona narrates in Glaswegian and whilst the accent initially was tricky it soon becomes part of the narrative and you forget about it. Even for words that you may not recognise, it is easy to put them into context.
Fiona's life is challenging at times and Anne Donovan certainly doesn't hold back but what you have to remember as a reader is that we are party to the challenges through the eyes of whatever age Fiona is at the time of them happening. It is easy to use the eyes and wisdom of an adult to solve her problems or think about how we might handle them, however using a child's or teenager's logic brings different results; some of which are painful.
I initially didn't like this novel, I was really struggling to get into it but couldn't put my finger on the reason why. The dialect wasn't holding me back and although I hadn't experienced all of Fiona's troubles I didn't feel like this was the reason either. Fortunately, I reached a point just over half way through where I suddenly realised I didn't want to leave the novel unfinished and I was pleased I had perservered.
Not having read any of Donovan's other novels I have no idea how this compares. It is well written and the reader is definitely involved in Fiona's life but there always seems to be a feeling of detachment. Unless this is intentional and is meant to represent how detached Fiona feels from different aspects of her life? One other aspect I didn't like was the lack of speech punctuation. Thankfully at least Donovan uses italics to distinguish dialogue from narrative but nevertheless the lack of conventions can often detract from a good plot.
Overall, it's a lovely story with all the loose endings tied up neatly at the end. It'll take you through a mixture of emotions and experiences and is worthwhile in the end. So from a beginning that would have been 2 stars, to a much improved middle of 3 stars the overall experience warrants 4 stars.