Born Free by Laura Hird
Canongate Books (ebook), 2000
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Punchy, acerbic, sharp-witted and above-all, acutely observed, Born Free tells the story of an ordinary family who are all trying to escape from something – and each other. The interactions between Jake, Joni, Angie and Vic reveal a hellish cocktail of adolescent and mid-life crises; the savagery of sibling rivalry; the waking nightmare of a marriage gone cold – and, naturally, the unbridgeable, infernal chasm between the generations. It’s a story of everyday life.
‘CHRIST, WHAT’S SHE doing there? Why’s she no at work?’
Crouching on my seat, I keek out the window as a mysterious silver Astra disappears up Lothian Road with my mother.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I’m a fan of Laura Hird. I’ve read her two collections of stories, Nail and Other Stories and Hope and Other Urban Tales. Nail and Other Stories contains some of the best short fiction I’ve ever read.
I loved Born Free. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Each chapter is told from the point of view of four different characters, Angie, her husband Vic or their kids, Joni and Jake. This works really well. I liked having different takes on what was happening. I loved the characters. Angie and her family are dysfunctional and have turned this into an art form. They are so real and flawed and human the book was painful to read at times. I can’t remember the last time I read characters so were so three-dimensional they almost stepped off the page (or out of my kobo anyway) and into my living room. I laughed and cried all the way through. Angie’s character is one of the best portrayals of an alkie I’ve ever read. I loved how Scottish the book is. Born Free is set in Edinburgh. Hird uses vernacular language which I usually don’t like but it works like a charm. I came over all patriotic and William Wallace-like. Born Free is a brilliant combination of light, dark, sadness, joy and humour.
I’d highly recommend Born Free. Hird is one of the most underrated writers around.