I've seen Islar Dewar's books in the library before, but not read them (just didn't appeal, but i am not particularly sure why - maybe the covers looked as if the books lacked substance); I'm not sure what drew me to Keeping up with Magda, but it sounded appealing from its synopsis on Amazon.co.uk.
Straightforwardly told, this is the story of Magda and Jessie and their lives in a small fishing village called Mareth in Scotland. Magda has lived in Mareth for years with her husband and children, and runs a small restaurant/cafe called the Ocean Cafe. Jessie comes to Mareth suddenly, seeking escape when the depression after she has miscarried her first child gets too much to bear in London, and finding accommodation in the flat above the Ocean Cafe. Of course it is impossible to seek anonymity in such a small place and despite keeping herself to herself initially, the villagers soon know all about her, and she becomes involved in village life, particularly after her husband clears out her bank account and she is forced to start waitressing in the cafe to make ends meet.
Obviously from this short description, the plot is mainly concerned with Jessie working her life out again, but there are subplots too - for example we learn about Magda's iliteracy; she proves to be an extremely zany character whom the village revolves around. Dewar draws wonderful pictures of the village inhabitants too.
Dewar has written quite a lot of books; though none of the others have made it onto the Orange longlist, I think that I will be borrowing some from the library in due course and will be interested to see whether her subsequent writing meets up to this longlisted standard.
I love books, baking and my boyfriend, and love to write about the first two. I particular love "forgotten" books, books brought out of obscurity by republication and those still languishing in obscurity. I'm currently reading my way through all of the Virago Modern Classics, but taking in other books along the way.