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Mo said she was quirky Paperback – 4 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141041617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141041612
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 307,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Praise for If it is your life: - Like Kelman's best work, it is tender and funny in a way that may surprise Daily Telegraph A rollicking, riveting read ... A collection by turns heart-breaking, profound and bitterly funny. It also amply demonstrates Kelman's skill in writing about women, his rich understanding of the psychological dance that goes on between couples and strangers Scottish Herald The mixture of the precisely but surreally bureaucratic and the casually macabre is perfectly judged, while the laconic tone immediately establishes a narrative voice that draws the reader in Sunday Times A set of strange tales that both frustrate and delight ... As well as being a keen observer of society's underclasses and disenfranchised, Kelman also has a great eye for the absurdity of everyday life, something which comes to the fore in this collection Independent on Sunday The musings on men and women, and on the difficulty of connecting with other people, ring touchingly true ... James Kelman still has the power to compel Daily Telegraph Kelman portrays his world with bleakly beautiful honesty The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Kelman was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His story collections include Greyhound for Breakfast, The Burn, The Good Times and most recently If it is your life. His novel How late it was, how late won the 1994 Booker Prize. Other novels include Translated Accounts, You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free and Kieron Smith, boy. In 2009 and 2011 James Kelman was shortlisted for the MAN Booker International Prize. Mo said she was quirky was the Saltire Society Book of the Year for 2012.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER on 27 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
Mo may have said that Helen was quirky - neurotic might have been a more accurate assessment of his partner though. Although not a first person narrative, James Kelman's latest is another dramatic monologue, although the first time he has placed a female as his main character. Helen is a single mother, working nights as a croupier in a London casino. Mo is her Asian boyfriend. In fairness to Helen, she has a lot to worry about - a damaged upbringing that has seen her older brother leave home without trace, a failed marriage, and a life of constant struggle. As usual with Kelman, his approach is tender, yet gritty and often gently amusing. He's always sympathetic to his main characters. However, if you are new to Kelman, be warned that he is a writer that is heavy on a distinctive style more than plot per se.

When Helen sees a possibly familiar face on the way home one morning, this leads her to look at her past and where she is in life. All the action takes place over the space of just a couple of days most of which involves Helen's own internal dialogue. She repeats herself, argues with herself and her worries are somewhat wearing at times, but she also addresses a lot of important issues about society and relationships. She is self-depreciating, but much of what she says or thinks is thoughtful and insightful.

The setting of Helen's work in a casino where people are gambling money that Helen can only dream of is particularly inspired.

Kelman's style may not be to everyone's taste but he's very good at what he does. At times the repetition of some of the arguments can be slightly irritating but it's highly readable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan B. Rennie on 10 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback
The book started with promise but I came close to as abandoning it after the first chapter. At times I felt the author masterfully conveyed the drudgery, anxieties and exhaustion of Helen's life but the book simply failed to hold my interest. I only ploughed on to the end because I hate not finishing a book. I didn't like the writing style and can't fathom why the author chose to write a stream of consciousness using third person. The lack of punctuation annoyed me, making the constsnt rambling more difficult and tiresome to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 29 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Helen, a young croupier on the night shift at a London casino, is traveling home during the wee hours in a taxi shared with two co-workers. When they stop at a traffic light, two men, obviously homeless and perhaps drunk, arrogantly step out from the curb just as the the light is about to change and walk slowly, at their own pace, across the street, seeming to dare the stopped cars to move when the light turns green. Wild-looking, scraggy, and rather frightening, one man makes Helen pay attention, though she hunches down in the back of the taxi to avoid being seen. "Brian, it was Brian," she thinks in astonishment, "her brother Brian," whom she has not seen for twelve years.

Establishing some of the novel's main themes in this opening scene, which is more dramatic because of the violence which does not take place, author James Kelman follows Helen from that moment with "Brian" to her arrival at the home she shares with her six-year-old daughter and Mo, a South Asian man who represents "normality" to her. For the next twenty-four hours, Kelman keeps the reader inside Helen's head as she worries about life's minutiae, often with good reason. She obsesses about the past, her family life, and her brother Brian, who vanished from the family home in Glasgow without explanation. With little transition, she then thinks about the people at the casino and their flirtatiousness with her (and about a couple of her dalliances with them); about the attitudes of men toward the women in the casino and in general; and about society's limitations on women.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Riley Mesh on 19 Jan 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you like a claustrophobic novel with a neurotic and irritating protagonist (where nothing happens) then this is the novel for you. If you like a novel that reads like an unedited first draft, then this is for you. If you like the same thing to be repeated multiple times throughout the novel, then this is for you. And if you like strings of sentences that say the same thing but in different ways, then this, my friend, is for you.

From a stylistic point of view, this could have been half the size. From a story point of view, this should have been a quarter of the size. I know some people would argue that it's written effectively, and to a certain degree I agree. It does read like someone's thoughts, with repetitions, fragmentations, tangents, and all the other things that assail our thoughts. But I think some things are not worth doing effectively if the result is a boring, drawn-out, repetitive mess. Maybe I'm just not a stream of consciousness fan.

I saw the good reviews for this and tried to keep an open mind when I started to struggle with the terribly long-winded and frankly ridiculous opening section. But I really struggled to understand why people liked this -- what the favourable reviewers were seeing that I wasn't. I wanted to put it down with a vehemence I've rarely felt before, but I stuck with it through to the end. The majority of me wishes I hadn't. What a waste of time, effort and money.
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