Kennedy and Boyd

Charity Begin At Home, with Mother of Millions and The Passionate Sisters
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By Allan, Dot. With an Introduction by Moira Burgess
ISBN 1849211132
SERIES Twentieth Century Scottish Womens Fiction
Paperback  444 pages
Published 23 September 2011
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Dot Allan was not only a Glasgow West End lady but a successful novelist and freelance journalist, a career still unusual enough - when she began writing in the 1920s - for a woman of her class, place and time. She wrote several plays early in her career, contributed to a wide range of newspapers and magazines throughout her life, and published ten novels in all. Two of these have recently been republished by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies: Makeshift (1928), a fairly early (for Scottish literature) and notably outspoken feminist novel, and Hunger March (1934), a 'proletarian novel' set in Glasgow, again early in its field and predating such better-known examples as George Blake's The Shipbuilders (1935) and James Barke's Major Operation (1936). Allan's other pre-World War II novels, less well known (perhaps deservedly) than these, are mostly set in Glasgow. It is after that war, during which, as has been said, she appears to have given her time wholly to nursing and charity work, that her writing takes a new turn: unexpected if one thinks of her as a Glasgow novelist, but not so in the light of her strongly feminist Makeshift. The three post-war novels, Mother of Millions (1953), The Passionate Sisters (1955) and Charity Begins at Home (1958), which are re-issued for the first time in the present volume, are historical novels with female protagonists. We have seen plenty of such novels where the heroines are either queens or countesses in their own right or the consorts of kings or lords. The heroines of the first two titles named above are, in contrast, 'ordinary' women who accomplished much in their own lives. Margaret Carnegie Fletcher introduced barley mills and weaving mills to Scotland, and if anything is commonly known about the Wesley family, it is that their energetic mother had the daughters, as well as the sons, taught Latin and Greek. But, at the time Allan wrote, these women had been lost in the shadow of their male relatives. Allan is doing something truly original here, as she is in her last novel, Charity Begins at Home, placed first in the present volume simply because it provides such a startling coda to this strand of her work.

Moira Burgess is a novelist, short story writer and literary historian, born in Campbeltown, Argyll, and now living in Glasgow. Writing has been the most important part of her life since childhood and she has published two novels, The Day Before Tomorrow (1971, reprinted 2009) and Speak, Adam (published in 1987 as A Rumour of Strangers, reprinted 2009) and The South Side: Three Glasgow Novellas (2010). For some years she worked mainly on non-fiction, publishing The Glasgow Novel: a bibliography (3rd edition 1999) and a book on the same topic, Imagine a City (1998). Author of Mitchison's Ghosts, a study of the supernatural and mythical elements in the work of Naomi Mitchison, she is now working on an edition of Mitchison's collected prose.

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