Walking the Lights is the debut novel of Deborah Andrews, published by Freight Books. It follows Maddie, a young, mostly-unemployed actor living in Glasgow as she attempts to understand where she went wrong and how she can pull herself out from the margins.
This is post-university life as it is in reality. Broke and struggling, Maddie struggles to find a job, and herself, in this inexpressibly Scottish novel. Much like Three Craws, Scotland feels essential to Walking the Lights. Grim and delightful and real, I’m kind-of loving my foray into Scotland this year.
This isn’t an easy read, by any means. Death, drugs and depression hound Maddie as she attempts to pull herself together enough to play Miranda. (When I saw that The Tempest was going to be central to Walking the Lights, I knew I had to read it. I love the play, and with its themes of fathers and daughters and shipwrecked souls, it absolutely fits 90s Glasgow.) Saying that, however, there are also some truly amusing moments as eccentric and outrageous drama students band together to create.
My one slight problem is with blurb on the back of the book, actually. It states that this is a feminist version of Whithnail and I. Other than the fact that the protagonist is female, I really don’t know what makes it specifically feminist. There are some fabulous female characters but the male characters are equally important and interesting. It could maybe be called feminist because Maddie attempts to pulls herself together, and understands the way she has been trapped within semi-abusive relationships throughout her life. And that’s a huge realisation, don’t get me wrong. I just hoped for something a bit more overt and empowering than that.
Nominated in the Not the Booker Prize, Walking the Lights is a novel that strikes right at the heart of the realities of life as it is, and how, with a bit of luck, it could be.