Buddha Da

Anne Donovan

Read December 2006

Jimmy has an announcement. He's become Buddhist. Not an announcement, really, just a mention as he's on his way out the door. Sure, he's one for taking a lark to something or another for a week or two, but when the time passes and he's visiting the Centre even more often, life at home starts to come apart and get woven back together in new ways.

Thus Anne Donovan, in this clever and entertaining debut.

If that's all there were to the novel the matter would end there. But Donovan has written this book not in English but in transcribed Glaswegian—not at all in Scots, as some have falsely claimed—and that gives the book a rough edge that some will love and others will find entirely affected. To be sure, reading it isn't trivial: after all, while many people may speak this way, nobody writes like this. The first two pages took me several minutes to parse. But within a dozen pages in I had stopped noticing the affect (even if I was actively channeling the voice of our Glaswegian friend, Paul), and it gave the book a context (this wasn't just any man wrestling with his life, it was unmistakably a Glaswegian!) that no amount of descriptive prose could have substituted.

The novel was worth reading, whatever the language. But I'd hope that Donovan would recognize that the joke's been milked, and would go back to writing in regular English. She has the talent to succeed in any voice.