The best Scottish novels centring working-class women

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Scottish writer and have long loved books from and about Scotland. But I would love to see more written about the working-class Scottish experience from women’s perspective as I think that would lead to less focus on the violence and poverty that is featured in so many contemporary Scottish books from male authors. There is so much joy in the Scottish working-class experience – a pot of soup always on the stove in someone’s kitchen, the stories, the laughter, a community that cares for their own. Let’s see more of that, and more stories from and about Scottish working-class women.


I wrote...

Ginger and Me

By Elissa Soave,

Book cover of Ginger and Me

What is my book about?

Ginger and Me is the story of the friendship between two working-class Scottish girls. 19-year-old bus driver, Wendy, is lonely but coping. After her mum dies, she joins a writers’ group to share the stories she writes. The other writers are total amateurs, unlike Diane Weston – a famous local author who likes and sometimes even comments on Wendy’s tweets.

Everything changes one rainy day when Wendy meets Ginger, a teenager with flaming orange hair. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they embark on the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if her life would be simpler if she hadn’t met Ginger. And that’s before she realizes just how much trouble Ginger is about to get them into…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Paper Cup

Elissa Soave Why did I love this book?

This beautifully written novel tells the story of Kelly, as she makes her way home to Galloway from Glasgow.

Homeless and with addiction problems, Kelly experiences some of the problems that Glasgow is sadly well-known for, but what I really love about Paper Cup is that we see these issues from a middle-aged woman’s perspective so there is no glorifying of violence and excess.

Instead we are drawn into the precarious world of a vulnerable and damaged woman, and made to consider just how easy it would be for any one of us to slip through the cracks and tread the same path as Kelly. A truly thought-provoking read.

By Karen Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paper Cup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if going back means you could begin again?

Rocked by a terrible accident, homeless Kelly needs to escape the city streets of Glasgow. Maybe she doesn't believe in serendipity, but a rare moment of kindness and a lost ring conspire to call her home. As Kelly vows to reunite the lost ring with its owner, she must return to the small town she fled so many years ago.

On her journey from Glasgow to the south-west tip of Scotland, Kelly encounters ancient pilgrim routes, hostile humans, hippies, book lovers and a friendly dog, as memories stir and the people…


Book cover of Scabby Queen

Elissa Soave Why did I love this book?

Scabby Queen opens with the death by suicide of Clio Campbell, at different times a popstar, a political activist, a lover of life.

The book stretches back five decades to tell her story, from different perspectives and jumping around between time periods. I really love that such a complicated, strong, and uncompromising woman gets to take centre stage in a story that is both political (poll tax riots, miners’ strikes, Brexit) and personal.

By Kirstin Innes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Scabby Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Gripping and moving. A literary triumph' Nicola Sturgeon

'A humane and searching story' Ian Rankin

'Kirstin Innes is aiming high, writing for readers in the early days of a better nation' A.L. Kennedy

A NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR * A SCOTSMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

Three days before her fifty-first birthday Clio Campbell - one-hit wonder, political activist, lifelong love and one-night-stand - kills herself in her friend Ruth's spare bedroom. And, as practical as she is, Ruth doesn't know what to do.

As the news spreads around Clio's collaborators and comrades, lovers and enemies, the story of…


Book cover of Buddha Da

Elissa Soave Why did I love this book?

Buddha Da is about Anne Marie’s painter/decorator Da who turns the whole family’s life upside down when he suddenly decides to become a Buddhist.

Set in Glasgow, and filled with quiet humour and pathos, I love how the author takes an ordinary working-class family and infuses their story with charm and wit. You cannot but warm to Jimmy and his family, and feel for Jimmy in particular as he searches for spiritual enlightenment.

I love that this is a novel about working-class Scottish life that is about more than men drinking and fighting, and grim poverty. It is about working-class life as it is – centring on family bonds (with brilliant strong women with minds of their own!), the everyday, and most of all, the universal human desire to find meaning in life. 

By Anne Donovan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buddha Da as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anne Marie's Da, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first tells his family that he's taking up meditation at the Buddhist Centre in town, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in his search for the spiritual his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz, and cracks begin to form in their previously happy family.

With grace, humour and humility Anne Donovan's beloved debut tells the story of one man's search for a higher power. But in his search for meaning,…


Book cover of The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Elissa Soave Why did I love this book?

This magnificent book made me realize perhaps more than any other by a Scottish female writer that the lives of working-class Scottish women are unique, important, and worth writing/reading about.

The book tells the story of Joy, a woman whose mental health is slowly crumbling before our eyes. Galloway masterfully tells this story in the first person so that we are right inside Joy’s mind. We discover a background of abuse and recent bereavement, leading to issues with alcohol abuse and anorexia.

That should all make for a depressing read, and it is of course heart-breaking at times but it is also ultimately about one woman’s search for what it takes ‘to keep breathing’. Utterly spellbinding writing from one of Scotland’s greatest writers. 

By Janice Galloway,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Trick Is To Keep Breathing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the corner of a darkened room Joy Stone watches herself. As memories of the deaths of her lover and mother surface unbidden, life for Joy narrows - to negotiating each day, each encounter, each second; to finding the trick to keep living. Told with shattering clarity and wry wit, this is a Scottish classic fit for our time.


Book cover of Duck Feet

Elissa Soave Why did I love this book?

This is the debut novel by Ely Percy, and tells the story of Kirsty Campbell, an ordinary Scottish girl as she navigates her way through high school in Renfrewshire.

An extremely relatable novel, it is told in short, buzzy chapters, and I love it for relating the best of what a Scottish working-class childhood can give you – resilience, humour, and the will to succeed. The book covers issues like teen pregnancy, drugs, and violence, but it does so without lecturing; rather, it celebrates what it means to be brought up in contemporary, working-class Scotland.

By Ely Percy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Duck Feet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Duck Feet is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland.

It follows the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school. This book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

By celebrated Scottish author Ely Percy, this is…


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Let Evening Come

By Yvonne Osborne,

Book cover of Let Evening Come

Yvonne Osborne Author Of Let Evening Come

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a family farm surrounded by larger vegetable and dairy operations that used migrant labor. From an early age, my siblings and I were acquainted with the children of these workers, children whom we shared a school desk with one day and were gone the next. On summer vacations, our parents hauled us around in a station wagon with a popup camper, which they parked in out-of-the-way hayfields and on mountainous plateaus, shunning, much to our chagrin, normal campgrounds, and swimming pools. Thus, I grew up exposed to different cultures and environments. My writing reflects my parents’ curiosity, love of books and travel, and devotion to the natural world. 

Yvonne's book list on immersive coming-of-age fiction with characters struggling to find themselves amidst the isolation and bigotry in Indigenous, rural, and minority communities

What is my book about?

After her mother is killed in a rare Northern Michigan tornado, Sadie Wixom is left with only her father and grandfather to guide her through young adulthood. Miles away in western Saskatchewan, Stefan Montegrand and his Indigenous family are displaced from their land by multinational energy companies. They are taken in temporarily by Sadie’s aunt, a human rights activist who heads a cultural exchange program.

Stefan promptly runs afoul of local authority, but Sadie, intrigued by him and captivated by his story, has grown sympathetic to his cause and complicit in his pushback against prejudiced accusations. Their mutual attraction is stymied when Stefan’s older brother, Joachim, who stayed behind, becomes embroiled in the resistance, and Stefan is compelled to return to Canada. Sadie, concerned for his safety, impulsively follows on a trajectory doomed by cultural misunderstanding and oncoming winter.

Let Evening Come

By Yvonne Osborne,

What is this book about?

After her mother is killed in a rare Northern Michigan tornado, Sadie Wixom is left with only her father and grandfather to guide her through the pitfalls of young adulthood.
Hundreds of miles away in western Saskatchewan, Stefan Montegrand and his Indigenous family are forced off their land by multinational energy companies and flawed treaties. They are taken in temporarily by Sadie's aunt, a human rights activist who heads a cultural exchange program.
Stefan, whose own father died in prison while on a hunger strike, promptly runs afoul of local authority, but Sadie, intrigued by him and captivated by his…


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