Book Review: Cold City by Cathy McSporran

cold city

Cold City by Cathy McSporran

Freight Books (paperback), 2014

256 Pages 


Two weeks after his death, Susan McPherson sees her father on the street in Glasgow. Not long after, she takes an overdose and is committed to a psychiatric institution. There, she is given a cocktail of drugs and soon finds herself moving between the reality of hospital and an alternate city, permanently covered in snow and ice.

In her new world her gay brother, Jamie, is now married to Claire. The country is dominated by militant pagan groups and Christian fundamentalism is on the rise, led by the charismatic preacher, McLean. Susan is befriended by Raj, a mysterious man who creates paintings of wolves and Norse legends.

As Susan is drawn into the struggles and relationships of this new parallel world, her grip on the “first world” loosens further. Can she resolve the crises in the ice-bound city in order to return to reality?


Two years ago my Dad died. He’d been ill for years, almost a decade, but Jamie was still in bits about it. Mum was even worse, which took me by surprise. I was the one who stayed calm. I dealt with all the practicalities. I seemed to be coping well.


This was my first time reading Cold City, McSporran’s debut novel. I wanted to read it because the premise reminded me of Lanark by Alasdair Grey, one of my favourite novels of all time.

I loved Cold City. McSporran’s debut is one of my books of the year. I found Cold City a sheer joy to read. I loved the premise and the alternative Glasgow’s that Susie encounters. I loved all the little nods to Norse Mythology and the world of Odin, Freya, Fimbulwinter and Ragnorak. I loved reading about Norse Mythology so Cold City was a rare treat. McSporran is very brave to tackle such an emotional subject as mental illness and pulls it off without being too depressing or flippant. The characters in Cold City were great. I loved the way McSporran brought Glasgow to life. I loved the crazy Christians and their attempts to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Cold City is wonderful and different.




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