Brian Whittingham is a poet, playwright, editor, and teaches Creative Writing in Glasgow. He has also taught at Seattle University as a visiting professor
This novella revolving around Bernice O’Hanlon, a contemporary witch from the highlands but living in Glasgow, intertwines the rural and the urban with its strong characterisation, twisting plot and contrasting settings.
The sharp dialogue shows us characters surviving on hope and encountering a variety of obstacles, some known and others mysterious, all in the spirit of the subject matter.
Even when faced with mounting uncertainty and manipulative strangers whilst we share the protagonists fears and insecurities we also smile inside ourselves at the use of language that endears Bernice to the reader and shows she lives by her wits and humour. A reflection of the author no doubt but all the more enjoyable for that.
The narrative isn’t written in dialect but ensues the West of Scotland tone of hope against adversity. The terse banter is a joy to the ear. No overwriting here!
The novella’s story is sandwiched between two funerals and is inhabited by a mix of hard hitting characters, a few of whom, being nasty pieces of work, the reader will have little empathy with, contrasted by a few souls whom the reader will be rooting for the more they get to know them. On the journey to the climatic scene we become at one with Bernice in her search for answers and woe behold anyone who might get in our way.
This is the first novella of a trilogy so even when we reach the end of the first stage of Bernice’s journey we know there’ll be more drama waiting to unfold, and this reader, for one, is looking forward to enjoying more of the potent new voice on Scotland’s literary scene that is Cathie Devitt.