Staying on Past the Terminus
One of the reviewers for this journal commented on Robert Douglas’s previous novel, Whose Turn for the Stairs, that it was ‘the literary equivalent of a hot water bottle’. The publishers have splashed this ‘recommendation’ across the back cover of Staying on Past the Terminus. It is equally apt.
Hot water bottles have many virtues, but narrative drive and dramatic tension are seldom among them. Not that Staying On shirks topics such as death, prostitution, crime, and alcoholism, but they are all wrapped in a warm nostalgia for the community life of the Glasgow tenements of yesteryear.
Staying On has the same cast of characters and the same setting as Whose Turn. They all inhabit 18 Dalbeattie Street, and the date is now 1962, the year the last trams ran in Glasgow, hence the title. The story is structured like a soap opera, with about a dozen separate plot lines and the text is almost entirely dialogue written in broad Glaswegian. This is not as inaccessible as one might expect, but it makes for slow reading.
Those who share the author’s nostalgia for the Glasgow of 60 years ago will love this book, and it is no doubt a monument to a lost way of life. However, I am not sure that it will engage many readers outside Scotland.