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Getting on

Patricia Craig

17 September 1987
The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 226 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 7195 4385 1
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The Upper Hand 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 186 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 719 7
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Dreams of Dead Women’s Handbags 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 434 44044 2
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... into the Gaedhaltacht areas of Donegal, out of apprehension about its Anglicising effect. George Mackay Brown’s Orkney is an unfamiliar, off-shore locality in which everything seems a little richer through being both concentrated and chancy. How long can its distinctive character survive? It was endangered as long ago as the last quarter of the 19th ...

Bully off

Susannah Clapp

5 November 1992
Dunedin 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 341 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 434 44048 5
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... Shena Mackay has written the first antispeciesist novel. Dunedin does not feature animals in any large anthropomorphic or allegorical capacity, and there is hardly a pet in sight. But what happens at the edges of Mackay’s novels, what is taken for granted, has always been vital in establishing their distinctive flavour and their point ...

Hug me, kiss me

Penelope Fitzgerald

6 October 1994
Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories 
edited by Shena Mackay.
Virago, 330 pp., £6.99, August 1994, 1 85381 755 4
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When the World Was Steady 
by Claire Messud.
Granta, 270 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 14 014099 9
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... Shena Mackay’s outstanding anthology, Such Devoted Sisters, consists of 21 sisterly stories, all written by women, much more thoughtfully than the title suggests. Since this is a relationship which doesn’t change, the book isn’t chronologically arranged, and the earliest piece, Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’, comes last of all ...

Lyris, Clovis, Nat and Candy

Gabriele Annan: Shena Mackay

16 July 1998
The Artist's Widow 
by Sheila Mackay.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 0 224 05134 2
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... Shena Mackay’s latest novel invites you to observe the Zeitgeist of 1997 addling the brains and hearts of quite a large number of Londoners. They seem an incongruous lot, but with her usual ingenuity she manages to portion out the action among them and to make them connect (not necessarily in the Forsterian sense ...
6 February 1986
Stroke Counterstroke 
by William Camp.
Joseph, 190 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 7181 2669 6
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Redhill Rococo 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 171 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 434 44046 9
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Striker 
by Michael Irwin.
Deutsch, 231 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 233 97792 9
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... are diagnosed within all classes, in the country’s life at large. The world inhabited by Shena Mackay’s characters is certainly less rarified than either Camp’s or Snow’s. But it is still recognisably the doldrums. A suburban farce unfolds, full of gloomy jokes about disorder and bending the law – played out against a backdrop of sad ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter

3 November 2016
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... bohemia’, into the shape not of romance or fable, but a modish early 1960s novel of beatnik shenanigans in the heightened kitchen-sink mode of Shena Mackay and Shelagh Delaney, only nastier. She based her characters on people she knew from her local pub, so closely that her publisher required a letter of comfort ...

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