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on 10 August 2012
Edinburgh, the city of my own birth and upbringing, is the setting of John Robertson Nicoll's poetic, moving, haunting, and poignantly comic novella. Not, however, the cultural Edinburgh that the chattering classes delight in hijacking at Festival time; nor Old Town Edinburgh, steeped in history and swarming with tourists. This is New Town Edinburgh, though Buster, the dishevelled and enigmatic central character, experiences only rejection in its fashionable quarters. A loner among loners, he takes his potentially catastrophic place alongside other lodgers in a faded New Town back street.

Loneliness is, indeed, the characteristic common to Buster and those around him. Each is locked into his or her private world of misunderstandings or fruitless relationships. Set in gregarious Glasgow, so welcoming of strangers, a story like this would reek of inauthenticity; set in the Edinburgh of approximately a quarter of a century ago, it captures that city's often reserved and sometimes downright unwelcoming spirit, frequently parodied in the infamous doorstep greeting, `you'll have had your tea' - more statement than question!

John Robertson Nicoll has authored a gem, to which I know I shall return again and again. If loneliness is its central theme, Buster takes his leave of Edinburgh in a spirit of hope: "He felt brave now and certain that the world would soon be turning his way again." Hardly likely, we realise by now, but as the novella closes we find another of its lonely characters happily resigned to making the most, literally or metaphorically, of life's "little gems.... In this way she could keep loneliness at bay forever." This novella is, indeed, one of life's `little gems'. Set aside a couple of hours and discover this fact for yourself!
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on 3 September 2012
This is a lovely wee book. Having lived in Edinburgh in the past I can see that there is much to admire in the way that the lower New Town/Stockbridge area is described. The characters are beautifully drawn and live long in the memory. Recommended!
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on 14 December 2013
A closely observed and seamlessly crafted snapshot of the lives of disparate - albeit all engagingly dysfunctional - characters caught in the whirlpool of a capital city, this kindly book explores some aspects of the new Edinburgh infrequently chronicled by the novelist. A feel-good read despite its darker moments, and highly recommended.
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on 11 August 2012
Funny, sad, poignant - I wept at the end after sharing two or three hours with a group of fascinating and believable characters with whom I found myself quickly empathising. In so short a story this is quite an achievement! John Robertson Nicoll has a wonderful gift for exploring beneath the surface and exposing the injustices, heartaches, even the humour, that constitute the human condition. A beautifully-written novella. I have already recommended it to some of my friends.
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on 5 September 2014
Saw a review of this book but would class it as a rather mediocre short story. Didn't live up to what had been expected from review.
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on 8 January 2014
Nice light read but a little disappointing in places. But I do see the potential for this author, look forward to his next wee book.
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