Tag Archives: Louise Welsh

For the Joy of Reading: Home Ground

This book is a delight and, if you live in Glasgow, it is free from Glasgow Libraries.   It was written as part of the celebration of the Homeless World Cup that took place in Glasgow last year.   It was distributed at the Aye Write! Book Festival earlier this year.   Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan have done a brilliant job as editors in bringing together established and new writers to explain the transformative power of something so simple as playing a game of football in the centre of a major city.

I am not going to pretend that every story is exceptionally well-written because that simply is not the case.   What I am going to say is that these stories will make you think about the issue of homelessness.   It will make you wonder why we, as a society, are not shocked by the fact that people are sleeping in our streets because they do not have anywhere better to go.   It will make you wonder why we, as a society, do not guarantee people a roof over their heads in the warm.   It will make you wonder why we, as a society, allow people to be reduced to begging on our streets.   It will make you wonder why we have become so heartless, so unthinking, so needlessly cruel.

That, in itself, is a considerable achievement.   This book creates a bond between its readers and the people in these stories.   It is to be hoped that the bond will then spread to the real people on the streets and that we, as a society, will recognise our responsibilities and our own best interests.   It is obviously so much better for all of us if we do not have to deal with an underclass that it is so marginalised in our society that people have to sleep on the streets.   It is so much better for all of us if the self-respect of people is not so undermined that they have no dignity, nowhere to turn, no hope.   That kind of society is not safe.

If only “Home Ground” could reach out to the opinion-makers in our society, it could have a considerable impact.   And the way to do that is through its readers raising the issue of homelessness so that those who make the decisions about how our society functions cannot ignore the arguments.   It is up to us.


For the Joy of Reading: Death is a Welcome Guest

Louise Welsh is a stunning writer. The first of her books that I read was “Tamburlaine the Great”.I admit that it was the cover picture of Anthony Sher in the title role of the Royal Shakespeare Company production that first drew my attention. And that was to my advantage because it introduced me to some enjoyable books.

“Death is a Welcome Guest” is the second book in “The Plague Times Trilogy”.     The first book is “A Lovely Way to Burn” but you do not have to have read it to enjoy this tale.

The premise is the same as that of Terry Nation’s cult TV series of the 1970s “Survivors”.   A plague, which people call “the sweats” has wiped out a huge proportion of the population.   At first, the authorities do not take it seriously and by the time they do, it is far too late.   Louise Welsh makes the point, in passing, that there was probably nothing that the authorities could have done anyway.   Except, perhaps, not to experiment with chemical and germ warfare, but the blame is never laid there, because there is no indication of what caused “the sweats”.   The story examines how individuals deal, or fail to deal, with an overwhelming catastrophe.

Magnus, somewhat the worse for drink, intervenes when he sees a man assaulting a woman, gets himself arrested and ends up in Pentonville in the sex offenders wing.   The the plague strikes, followed by a prison breakout.   What follows is a descent into chaos, as society disintegrates.   Magnus tries to make his way to orkney to find his family, and becomes involved in a small community trying to rebuild their lives.   People, however, are disappearing and then bodies are found.   Magnus and his new companions have to find out what is happening, and try to stop it.

Louise Welsh writes with convincing detail, and the world that she creates is an utterly believable world of horror.   This is a book that will leave you uneasy, and waiting for the final book in the trilogy so that you can know what happens, and how people will survive.