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Weekend by William McIlvanney


After reading a review of Docherty by William McIlvanney and a tribute to the author following his death in December by FictionFan, I was looking forward to reading Weekend by this author. (Links to FictionFan’s posts below).

Weekend tells the stories of a group of university students and staff who spend a study weekend together at a Scottish mansion called Willowvale.

Not surprisingly, most of the attendees at Willowvale are not especially interested in studying. Lecturers are looking for flings, or to escape their everyday lives. Students are looking for romance. One student is looking for an escape from her future. Some of the character’s stories moved me emotionally, while other characters were annoying and were too selfish to care about, (a bit like the people you meet in real life really).

I laughed aloud reading a letter that one of the characters, a writer, received from a Women’s Guild. The gist of the letter was, when engaged to speak to a group be on time, don’t turn up drunk, don’t drink even more alcohol during the event or at supper, don’t use swear-words in the speech or in conversation with the attendees, (and for your information, ‘hell’ counts as a swear-word), and most importantly, read or speak about your own work. The letter is a chapter on its own and the humour in it was a high point of the book for me.

Other funny events that occur over the weekend were more subtle, but the stories ranged from hilarious to tragic.

There are a lot of characters and when I didn’t pay close attention, I lost track of what was happening with each story. I went back and re-read a few sections later, as the stories and the insights from the author are worth paying closer attention to. Nearly every page contains at least once sentence that is worthy of thinking about. for example, ‘He was too tired not to face the truth’, and Weeping ‘was something he thought he had forgotten how to do.’ Imagine being able to think up stuff like that, let alone use these ideas in a novel.

I regret reading this book too quickly the first time. Weekend is a book that should be read slowly, allowing time to think about the philosophies that are discussed, to enjoy the humour and to ponder the questions that arise from the story.

The ending is a ripper.





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