Scottish comedy drama. Funny. Moving. Full of life and passion. Great music. Not suitable for Tories.
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Set in working class Ayrshire in 1982, this is a book most definitely not suitable for Tories. The struggles of the working class at that time, the crushing pressure of record unemployment, a struggle to see a positive future after leaving school, the shadow of the Falklands war all weigh heavy on the characters that populate the story. Despite all that, The Last Days of Disco is an uplifting story.
Bobby and Jimmy are coming to the end of school life and facing a decision familiar to all, what to do next. They decide to set up a mobile disco, using Bobby’s father Harry’s last savings from compensation for an accident that robbed him of his job for the equipment. After a catastrophic, and very funny, first gig they start to find their feet, much to the chagrin of local gangster Fat Franny. Although this is Bobby and Jimmy’s story for the most part, the relationship between Bobby’s older brother Garry and his younger sister Hettie ties the story to national events of the day and provides for some of the novels most moving scenes. Garry has left home, having a very strained relationship with his father Harry and joins the army, completing his training and being ready for deployment as the war in the Falkland’s is breaking out.
Ross makes great use of his heritage and has a real knack for dialogue. Although not being from Scotland some of it did take a little bit of getting used to, natural tones and local slang are used throughout. This approach, once I adapted, gives the story a real grounding in its setting, a sense of authenticity that would otherwise be missing.
I was born in 1983, so have no real recollect of what it was like for people in the 1980s. It’s a testament to David Ross that it doesn’t really matter. He brings to life the struggle of the time in such an empathetic way that you are with the characters every step of the journey. You are a part of their life and by the end care deeply about what is happening, from the disco and the new girlfriend through to the fear of the Falklands.
Music flows through every page, some genuine classics and some songs and bands I now need to seek out, I was really thrilled to see a nod to Manchester post punk legends Magazine (great live if you ever get a chance to see them). I almost feel that there should be an accompanying Spotify playlist. Passion for music and its ability to lift you out of the everyday comes through in a number of sequences. At its best, live music creates a space in which the songs and the crowd and that sense of community are all that matters, the rest of the world drops away and the only important thing is that moment. That song. That show. It doesn’t matter what is going on outside, how much real life may be weighing you down just ceases to be important. Right then, right there, its all about the music. Ross captures that feeling in a way I’ve never encountered in a book before and uses it as a shared experience to draw empathy for Bobby, Jimmy and his Ayrshire cast. No matter what our own life has brought, we all have that in common.
The Last Days of Disco is the first in a series featuring Bobby and Jimmy. Currently standing at three novels, I’m looking forward to spending more time in their company in the not to distant future.