Book 900 James Kelman – How Late it Was , How Late

I first attempted to read this book back in 2001 but I got tired and left it unread. As I’ve had very good luck with revisiting the my past reads, I was sure that I would be able to tackle this novel and, furthermore enjoy it.

Unfortunately the things that bothered me the first time round still got to me nine years later. I’ll explain later on. At least I was able to finish the book.

After a rough night and being beaten by police ex-convict Sammy finds himself lying on the ground and blind. After trying to adjust into his new world (and finding out that his partner Helen has disappeared) he gets arrested again by and questioned if the police really did cause his loss of sight. Sammy is a vague about this. Later on he goes to a doctor to get a certificate that he is blind and the doctor refuses. By the end of the book Sammy’s son  bails him out and Sammy leaves the country.

How Late……  uses the stream of conscious technique of getting its message across and Sammy (or the narrator) uses working class Scottish dialect. This already made the book a bit dragging. However it’s the complete lack of narrative structure which really made me squirm and angrily close the book at intervals.

I can understand that this is a book which deals with class struggles and the brutality of the police force but I find it way too difficult to cope with a novel that’s so messy.  Maybe I am more traditional in my reading habits but I just find books like How Late… and City Sister Silver (see previous entry) just plain irritating.


5 thoughts on “Book 900 James Kelman – How Late it Was , How Late

  1. anothercookiecrumbles June 10, 2010 / 6:21 pm

    Oh! I was really looking forward to this book. Now, I’m not so sure.

    It won the Booker in 1994 (I think) and I was planning on reading it as part of the complete Booker challenge this year. Now, I’m contemplating changing my mind about that.

    • deucekindred June 10, 2010 / 7:33 pm

      If you’re a fan of over sweary dialect and a meandering plot then you might like this!

  2. Laura June 13, 2010 / 10:09 am

    I just read this book myself and anothercookiecrumbles referred me to your review. I agree with your assessment! My review is here.

  3. kiss a cloud June 22, 2010 / 4:49 am

    I’m not a fan of sweary dialect but I loved this book so much because it made me think about it for days afterwards and it made me feel. I read this when it came out and I was still very young, so don’t know how I might’ve perceived this if I had read it more recently, but I really did love it. Despite the swearing.

    • deucekindred June 22, 2010 / 5:05 am

      Hmmm could be a youth thing – I read Trainspotting when I was in my late teens and it blew me away. I tried to re-read it a few years ago and it didn’t have that impact

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