Thursday, 3 December 2020

There's Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross @dfr10 @OrendaBooks #OneDannyGarvey #BookReview #ScottishFiction

 


Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned.
 
And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
 
A story of irrational hopes and fevered dreams – of unstoppable passion and unflinching commitment in the face of defeat – There’s Only One Danny Garvey is, above all, an unforgettable tale about finding hope and redemption in the most unexpected of places.


There's Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross is published by Orenda Books; ebook, 21st November 2020 and paperback on 21 January 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 


As I turned the final page of There's Only One Danny Garvey, I realised that there was going to be huge hole in my life. For three days, the characters that dance across the pages of this novel had become part of me, their stories had entranced me. I was totally and utterly living in the drab, dreary streets of Barshaw, Scotland. Visiting the pub, buying a pastry from the baker and donning my football scarf to cheer on the local team.

This is a novel about football, and whilst I do understand the off-side rule and do watch a match every now and again, I can honestly say I'm not really a football fan. However, as much as the game is an integral part of Danny Garvey's story, it is the characters and the setting that make this novel fly.

Barshaw is a small village, there's not a lot going for it and it seems to be populated by characters who never leave. Apart from Danny, and his brother Raymond, and they both make their way back there eventually. 
Danny Garvey's name is well-known at Barshaw Bridge Football Club. He was their star player, but he's not remembered for scoring the winning goal in a cup final. No, Danny is remembered because he left Barshaw, with no notice, just before the most important match of the season.

Danny is back. It's been a long exile, he's spent time in the north of Scotland after an injury put paid to his career and when Higgy; the man who was a father to him during his younger years appears and begs him to return, to manage Barshaw junior club, Danny eventually agrees.

Ross tells his story in four voices; predominantly Danny, but we also hear from Higgy, from Danny's brother Raymond, and from Raymond's partner, and mother of his child; Nancy. It's a clever way to structure the story as the reader learns a little bit more about Danny along the way. It's absolutely clear that Danny has many demons in his past, but it's not clear, as the story evolves, just how honest he's being about his past. 

It's all too easy to come across a cast of characters who swear a lot, who fight a lot, who drink a lot and who seem to have no ambition or motivation, and who live in a place that is deprived, neglected and has little pride left, and to make assumptions about them. What Ross does here is pull this disparate group together like a conductor of an orchestra and create an absolutely beautiful harmonious story. He gets to the very heart of the people, and the community, showing that despite their language and their behaviours, these are real folk, with beating hearts and emotions that run deep.

As Danny turns the club around, he also re-visits his past. There are scenes here that take the breath away, especially those when he returns to visit his dying mother Libby; there's a horror and a sadness here that are beautifully portrayed. There's also a good dash of humour; when Danny and Nancy go for dinner at a friend's house, the night turns into something that nobody could have imagined; it's funny and a refreshing interlude into what is such a brutal and heartbreaking story.

If you enjoyed Shuggie Bain, you will adore this book. It's an exploration of family, of community and of how the past is not always another country. A book filled with honesty and written with a tenderness that is faultless. 
There's Only One Danny Garvey is one of the best books I've read for years.



David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. 

He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. 
His debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy: The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man Who Loved Islands. 
David lives in Ayrshire.

Twitter @dfr10






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