The Ripening Time (The Tomato Man) – A Review

This book is a lotus in the sea of internet flotsam and jetsam. by Catherine MacLeod and Alistair Mair. Available on Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K.

The Tomato Man by Alistair Mair, in its most recent incarnation by his daughter Catherine MacLeod is a gem. The writing and the characters span three generations of MacLeods and the authors do not spare any character. They now live in my mind with an unvarnished reality as seen by a third-person narrator. They are plain, but complex, unembellished folks and well reflect working class life in Glasgow from the WWII era of Thomas MacLeod, the father, to the 1963 life of Thomas MacLeod, the son. The writing is fine, understated and elegant and captures nuances brilliantly. When Jessie “sighed and took her hand away…,” Thomas the younger “felt the loss of it like a wound.” The “small brass nameplate” which says “Tom Macleod…still clearly, though twenty-seven years of polishing had blurred the definition of the letters more than twenty-two years of widowhood had blurred her memory of the man whose name it had been.” This enduring brass nameplate becomes a metaphor for Thomas himself as he emerges as a man to develop his own ideas, crippled relationships and, of course, his own garden. The comparison to DH Lawrence by the prior reviewer is apt. There is a fatalism and inevitability here as the characters play the roles for which they have been groomed.

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One Response to The Ripening Time (The Tomato Man) – A Review

  1. You _do_ have a knack for finding extraordinary books. This fragment got me interested right away … : ‘in its most recent incarnation by his daughter Catherine’. … Has there ever been another instance of a child issuing a new edition of a highly-praised book by a parent, I wonder? … I liked the extract I read on Amazon, so the MacLeods have one more reader. … The Gorbals is among the world’s most famous slums, but I have never seen it written about (etymology can be so bizarre: ‘The name is remarkably similar to a Lowland Scots word gorbal/gorbel/garbal/garbel (unfledged bird), perhaps a reference to lepers who were allowed to beg for alms in public.’) Thanks for posting this, an excellent idea.

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