Keeping up with Magda by Isla Dewer

Set in the fictional fishing village of Mareth in Fife Keeping up with Magda tells the story of Jessie, a woman escaping a failed marriage in the aftermath of a miscarriage. Amongst the multitude of characters, in a place where everyone knows everyone and their business, is Magda. Magda is the over-the-top illiterate gourmet cook of the Ocean Cafe where Jessie ends up working at a waitress.

The characterisation is so lifelike that you can imagine meeting them yourself. It includes the type of descriptions and judgements that run through your head when you meet people for the first time which makes narrative more compelling. It appealed to me more as someone who has lived in a small town and I could relate to the setting of a place where everyone is related to everyone else and there is no such thing as a secret. In addition to Magda and Jessie, the other characters add depth to the story and there are elements that I can recognise in people I know.

Some readers may find the swearing and the occasional sexual references vulgar but, in the context of the story and the emotional journeys of the characters, I believe their inclusion is justified and even necessary.

For such a short book (only 217 pages) it packs a lot in but is satisfying complete and I would recommend it wholeheartedly specifically to Scottish readers.


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