Viking £12.99

Waterline, By Ross Raisin

Down and out in Glasgow and London

Mick's wife Cathy has died prematurely. The family home in Glasgow is full of relatives and their continued presence is unsettling him.

He gets on well with his son Robbie and his daughter-in-law Jenna; not so well with his other son, Craig. Mick suspects that Craig blames him for Cathy's death, because Mick worked in an asbestos plant and Cathy died of mesothelioma.

Soon enough, however, they all depart and Mick is left to his bereavement. He starts sleeping in the garden shed, too traumatised to stay in the house with its memories of Cathy. Shortly after, he takes a coach to London, thinking a change of scene might help.

This is Ross Raisin's second novel. His debut, God's Own Country, was set in Yorkshire and concerned a rural sociopath with longings for under-age girls. A Yorkshireman himself, Raisin offered his troubled protagonist's thoughts in finely crafted dialect, part of an arresting feat of characterisation and voice.

Waterline's central figure also places himself beyond society and its rules, but the more immediately apparent comparison lies in Raisin's ongoing mining of language. Mick brims with colloquialisms: "beeling" (angry), "boak" (vomit), "scaffie" (a derelict) and so on. The vernacular is only one aspect of the vitality and inventiveness of Raisin's writing. Mick's wife took him to task for idleness, so "this frequenting of the Empress every afternoon and sitting about the house like a pound of mince isnae helping anybody". Later, Mick is forced indoors by inclement weather: "It is the cold that pushes him on, chibbing like a gun between the shoulder blades."

As the glories of northern cities recede further into the past, the brutalities of their heydays are blurring, replaced by vistas of permanent austerity. Mick personifies this decline and Raisin's portrait of this wry sexagenarian is persuasive and compassionate. But Raisin is butting up against a couple of generations of Scottish writers. James Kelman, in particular, has rendered the voices of industrial and post-industrial Glasgow in streams of consciousness of raw acuity. Whether Raisin reaches the same level of engagement with this subject matter is moot.

There are niggling issues of style, too. Using the present tense introduces an undermining melodrama into scene-setting: "So this is grief ..."; "It is hot and he can't sleep"; "Morning. He lies there a long time." More importantly, Mick does not arouse the same disturbing expectations as the narrator of God's Own Country, in which, early on, we had intimations of a deranged denouement. Mick lacks his dark charisma and potential for mayhem, and by around page 50, it is clear he cannot carry the novel on his own.

The mesothelioma strand of the story peters out, and much of the remaining narrative concerns Mick's descent in London. Distressing as this is, at times it possesses an unduly mediated quality, lending an unfortunate cosiness that contrasts with harder edged, real-life accounts of dereliction (of which John Healy's The Grass Arena remains the classic). When it comes to rough sleeping, it is difficult for Raisin to fill in any blanks for us because in these precarious times, sadly, we are well aware of just how far and how fast we can fall.

There is a sense of Raisin marking time with Waterline, but there can be no doubt that he is a writer of outstanding talent and it will be fascinating to see what he comes up with next.

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff