Sunday, 28 June 2015

Things Fall Apart by Tracy Black

This book brought back many memories for me as I moved to Edinburgh in 1991, just a few years after the year the story is set in. Edinburgh at that time was the drug capital of Europe and it was a rude awakening for me to discover that the beautiful city I had moved to had such a seedy underbelly. I quickly learned to recognise a junky. Working in the jewellery trade, a runny nose, glassy eyes and an unkempt appearance made us extra alert. It should have made Mandy, the mother in the book alert too, but she didn’t realise her two eldest were using drugs until one ended up in hospital to have her stomach pumped. Her son was by this time a frequent Heroine user. A lot of people might be baffled by her naivity, but I think Edinburgh’s drug and AIDS problem got so out of hand because people in 1986 were not as knowledgeable as we are today. What I found harder to believe was the fact that Mandy couldn’t see that her youngest son was having problems of a different kind. Her neglect of him, led him to act out by shoplifting. She should have realised that he needed her too and that his problem was easier to fix than the drug use of the other two. I thought the book was well written, and even though the subject matter was harrowing at times I had no hesitation in reading on. I can’t say that stories like this don’t happen anymore in Edinburgh, but a lot of the areas in the book have improved, especially The Shore. In the book it is an area where street walkers ply their trade. These days it’s full of trendy bars and expensive restaurants. Read Train Spotting and this book as it will give you a good insight into Edinburgh of the 80’s and 90’s, but don’t let it put you off visiting this beautiful town.