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Bitterhall Reviews

Bitterhall by Helen McClory

Bitterhall: A Novel

Helen McClory

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Birlinn Ltd
Publisher: Birlinn General
Publication date: 1 Apr 2021
ISBN: 9781846975493

The exciting and much-anticipated new novel from Helen McClory, set to join the canon of Scottish masterworks about duality, identity and obsession.

3 stars out of 5
Stuart Kelly
14 Apr 2021

"is a work in the great Scottish gothic tradition"

The reader is quickly beguiled by the novel, as much as the characters are by the mysterious diary. They learn fairly quickly that there is no such place as Bitterhall and that the diary contains strange errors, so what kind of a document is this: deliberate fantasy, art naif ravings, something cryptic to be decoded, opaque confession, journal á clef? The problem is twofold, not triplicate. On a basic level, the characters think in a very literary manner – examples might be “can we feel our circuitous pointlessness?” or “what a charming uninkling, then”. None of this is bad writing. It is just slightly attention seeking. McClory does, for example, have a penchant for inventing adverbs. But there is a sense that the characters know they are in a novel, and must conduct themselves accordingly.