Whitbread/Costa prize shortlist

All posts in the Whitbread/Costa prize shortlist category

Buddha Da – Anne Donovan

Published June 23, 2013 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Anne Marie’s dad, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first takes up meditation at the Buddhist Center, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in a search for the spiritual, his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz. Cracks appear in their apparently happy family life, and the ensuing events change the lives of each family member. Donovan completely captures these lives in her clear-eyed, evocative prose, rendered alternately in the voices of each of the main characters. With seamless grace and astonishing veracity, Buddha Da treats serious themes with humor and its characters with humanity. From prize-winning writer Anne Donovan, this stunning debut novel — shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award — will appeal to readers of Roddy Doyle.

What did I think?:

As a proud Scotswoman this novel appealed to me not only because it was short-listed for the Orange Prize (now the Woman’s Prize for Fiction), but because it was written in the Glaswegian dialect in the same manner as Irvine Welsh’s novels. It is the story of a family, consisting of Jimmy, Liz and their young daughter Anne-Marie, and how their lives are turned upside down when Jimmy decides to explore his spiritual side by becoming a Buddhist. Each chapter is written from the point of view of the three main characters which I found to be very effective, and added to the charm of the whole story as a whole. When Jimmy starts to spend more time away from home in the Buddhist Centre and changes his way of life – no alcohol, meat etc, his relationship with Liz begins to fall apart, and it was interesting to read how the outcome of this affected each character.

Anne Donovan’s story seems to flow off the page so effortlessly and I was completely drawn into the story, and found myself engrossed and caring for each character as an individual. I think she has captured the ups and downs of relationships, and the troubles we all face with daily life so easily, that it was a real pleasure to read. The dialect, as I mentioned earlier, was a big attraction for me, and it was wonderful to read small words like “oxter,” and “boking,” that transported me right back to my childhood (and  the periods of my adult life, whenever I am around my Scottish parents!). A worthy short-lister for the Orange Prize, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in spirituality, family dynamics, and great story-telling.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):