The Sopranos – Alan Warner

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The Stars in the Bright Sky was recently nominated for the Booker Prize and as I don’t like reading books out of order I decided to read The Sopranos first.

The Sopranos follows a group of teenage girls as they travel to Edinburgh for a singing competition. It was a frighteningly realistic portrayal of a group of teenage girls, but I’m not entirely convinced that I enjoyed reading it.

The book followed the girls as they embarked on a bus trip and showed their drunken exploits once they’d arrived in Edinburgh. The naivety and boastfulness of the teenagers was initially endearing, but after I’d read a few chapters of them spouting constant nonsense I began to tire of their gossiping.  There were many times when I felt like shouting SHUT UP! After about 100 pages I had to put the book down for a few days and retreat to a quieter book before I could return to their chaotic world.

She’s full of all those wee town ideas. Like ah hate to say it, you want to get out of the Port, you’re aw set up, you’ll come down here an have a great time an get your Law things, but Manda, all she really, really wants, is to get pregnant, soon as possible after leaving school, to a guy wi an okay job, he’ll be a mechanic, or forestry or out on hydro or something, cause, you ever noticed how she only goes wi guys that’re working?….Manda checks their pockets to make sure there’s no giro before anything else, wi them being so poor an that, an all she wants is a bought house up the complex, no far from her Dad, a wee boy wi a skinhead an an earring, called Shane or something, an SKY TV. That’ll be her happy.

The Sopranos was well written and the Scottish accent wasn’t too hard for me to follow, but I found it difficult to read about characters who seemed to be making such a mess of their lives. I didn’t really like any of the girls and frequently wanted to give them a good talking to, but by the end of the book I felt as though I knew each one personally. Considering the subject matter that is an impressive achievement.

I’d recommend this to anyone who’d like an insight into the lives of teenage girls, but be prepared for non-stop gossiping and a worrying level of drunken sex.

The thoughts of other bloggers:

The Sopranos is a lot of fun to read, and it has such a huge amount of heart and warmth that makes it very difficult not to fall for these characters. start narrative here

By the end of the novel, I cared about each of the Sopranos. My Novel Reviews

 …a rip-roaring load of fun to read. Fly the Falcon

I’m looking forward to reading The Stars in the Bright Sky, but I’m really hoping that the characters have matured a bit and that there is a glimmer of hope for their futures.

Have you read either of Alan Warner’s novels?


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32 Comments

  1. Annabel says:

    The only Alan Warner I’ve read was Morvern Callar, which I really disliked – not for the writing, but for the lead character, whom I just couldn’t get on with at all. It was all her mannerisms that irked me most – there was so much about nail varnish and ciggie lighters!

    I did have a copy of the Sopranos, but gave it away after reading the former. That said, Morvern Callar will probably be a rave generation classic. Good luck with the new one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, It sounds as though Morvern Callar is quite similar to The Sopranos. I found the behaviour of all the characters objectionable, but they’d moved on from nail varnish and smoking to alcohol and casual sex.

      I’m sure that the Sopranos is a generational classic, but unfortunately I’m a generation too old to fall in love with this book :-)

  2. Amy says:

    I hadn’t realized that the Booker could go to a novel in a series, how odd. To me it’s hard to consider a novel from a series as a stand alone! This sounds only meh, I might give it a pass!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I think the novel has to be able to stand alone. I’m sure that you can understand Stars without having read The Sopranos, but I don’t like leaping into the middle of a story. I think giving this a miss might be a good idea for you :-)

  3. Marieke says:

    Aren’t they from Oban? I seem to remember someone mentioning that… I’ll have to read it to see if they bear any resemblance to the kids I see around Oban.

    1. Jackie says:

      Marieke, I could be wrong, but I don’t think the book specifies where they are from – it just says it is a seaside port town. Alan Warner is from Oban though, so I guess you can assume that it had a big influence on the book even if it isn’t the actual place. I would love to know if you recognise any behaviour from Oban!

  4. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more, Jackie. It was a favourite of mine when I read it around ’00 or ’01 but that may well be because my teenage years had only been a couple of years before. I recall thinking that Warner had uncannily captured the voices of teenage girls and given insight into their thoughts, which was impressive. I hope that you enjoy the girls grown up in The Stars in the Bright Sky.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I’m sure I would have loved this book as a teenager. I would have been used to the banter and intrigued by their behaviour. I’d love to know if you’d enjoy this if you re-read it now, but perhaps you shouldn’t spoil your fond memories?

      I’m very interested to see what the girls are up to now. I’m hoping they’ll be a bit easier to relate to once they’ve become adults!

  5. Steph says:

    It’s books like these that make me worry I’m getting old! ;) All of a sudden, rather than feeling like someone gets the teenage state of mind, I find myself wondering what’s wrong with “youths of today”…

    Reading your review I was reminded slightly of The Rehearsal in terms of scope, though it sounds like this one is perhaps less erudite. I worry that I might want to wring a few necks with this one, but then again, I think I might like its gloves-off approach to adolescence as well… I’ll have to keep it in mind!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, LOL! The ‘youths of today’ can be quite annoying sometimes! It does make me feel old :-(

      The teenagers in The Sopranos are a lot less civilised than those in The Rehearsal. They are the type of characters that will probably drive you mad! I’d love to know your thoughts on it though :-)

  6. Jessica says:

    If the sequel ends up on the short list then I’ll be reading this but just listening to teenage girls on the bus gives me a headache and it wasnt that long ago I was like that. Sounds like a ‘fund’ read though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, If you got a headache after a few minutes on the bus then it might be a good idea to avoid this book!!

  7. Sandy says:

    Haha! I have plenty of insight, thanks! More than I care to have on some days. I know I would rip my hair out if I got too much teen silliness in a book. I do remember what it is like to be young and stupid, but it doesn’t make it any more tolerable.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, LOL! I’m not looking forward to my boys becoming teens, but thankfully that is a long way off. I’m pleased that I don’t have to listen to teens gossiping in real life. I’m not sure I could take it for very long!

  8. Iris says:

    This doesn’t seem very special, but I somehow feel the need to read it. Weird how that happens..

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, It is quite a special book – if you can tolerate irritating teens :-) I’d love to know what you make of it.

  9. Stujallen says:

    warner has never really grab me ,like morvern caller film but didn’t feel compelled to read him ,this seems ok but not stand out ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I didn’t realise there was a film of Morvern Caller – I think I’ll add it to my wishlist as I don’t think I want to read the book :-)

  10. I plan to start this one either today or in a few days. I’m looking forward to something different and a bit gritty in a modern way after The Long Song, and I think this one will fit the bill. I”m glad to hear the Scottish dialogue isn’t too difficult to follow. Thanks!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I couldn’t complain that this wasn’t different. I hope that you enjoy it.

  11. Jenny says:

    I used to have loads of problems reading British books written in middle to heavy dialect, just because I hadn’t lived in Britain before and didn’t have any auditory examples to compare it to. It makes such a difference. Hopefully I wouldn’t have issues with the Scottish, because you’ve made me quite curious.

    (For the longest time I thought when British people said “giros” they were saying “gyros”, like the stuff you get at Greek & Lebanese places. It was very confusing.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, It is almost impossible to follow most dialects if you haven’t heard them before – that is one benefit of watching foreign films :-)

      It is individual words that have an obscure meaning that pose the biggest problem. It is very frustrating when you can’t even find a definition online as the word is slang. I’m impressed that you know about giros (for claiming benefit) I’m sure that a lot of working British people don’t know what they are :-)
      I don’t think I’ve ever eated a gyros – I need to find Greek restaurant!

      1. Jenny says:

        It’s also hard if a word isn’t slang but is elided in a way you weren’t expecting. When I was in Britain I did a class on American literature (it was interesting to get it from y’all’s perspective!), and the rest of the class had a terrible time with Zora Neale Hurston. They kept coming up to me furtively to inquire what things like “finna” meant (“fixing to” = “about to”). :p

  12. mee says:

    Yikes, I don’t really like the passage you shared above. I often have problem with dialect and Scottish IMO is one of the hardest! The inclusion of The Stars in the Bright Sky in the Booker longlist has probably confused me the most. The premise sounds juvenile and it sounds like a YA book. I’m sure it has some merits to be included, so I look forward to what you think of it!

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I sometimes find a strong Scottish accent difficult to understand in real life, but on paper I can normally follow it.

      The subject matter of the books is quite juvenile, but I’d never describe the books as YA (although I’m sure teenagers would enjoy reading them and passing them around to laugh at certain rude passages!) The writing is of a high quality so I can see why it was included. Being able to imitate teenagers so accurately is a real skill.

  13. Beth F says:

    Doesn’t sound like it’s meant for me.

  14. Jenners says:

    Sounds like it replicates the experience of being with teenage girls a little too well!! HAHA!

  15. Kathleen says:

    I don’t think I can handle the silly teenage girl stuff. I suppose I might have been one once but it is a dim memory. The whole gossip thing would be more than I could take!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Listening to gossip about people you know is bad enough, but the gossip of made up people? Drives me mad!

  16. I actually really like the section that you quoted – I can ‘hear’ the girl speaking when I read it. For that reason, it attracts me though I’m not sure if I’d be as enamored of the story itself.

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