I am a big fan of Janey Godley so when I saw this book was on offer for Kindle recently, I snapped up a copy. She’s probably best known as a comedian and certainly here in Scotland, is well known for her hilarious voiceovers of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s daily Covid briefings. She has written an autobiography of what sounds like a remarkable life but Nothing Left Unsaid is her debut novel.
About the book
GLASGOW, 2019. Sharon has rushed home at the news her mother has been admitted to hospital. It’s clear Senga‘s life is coming to an end. As Sharon gathers family and friends together to say goodbye, Senga, as always, does things in her own mysterious way. She instructs Sharon to find the red diary she kept in the 1970s and to read it. There’s something Senga needs to talk about while she still has time. The journey into her mother’s past is both shocking and surprising, forcing Sharon to re-evaluate her own childhood, her marriage and what she wants her own future to hold.
GLASGOW, 1976. Life in the tenements of Shettleston is a daily struggle. You need your wits about you to survive, and your friends. Senga has both in spades: she is part of the Shettleston ‘menage’ alongside her friends Bunty, Sandra, Philomena and Isa, and whatever life hands to them – cheating husbands, poverty, illness, threats and abuse – they throw something back just as hard. These women are strong because they need to be. And they never, ever walk away in times of crisis – as Sharon is about to find out.
If you buy this book expecting it to be very funny given the author’s comedy background, you might be surprised. There is a lot of humour but it is more of an intriguing drama. Within each chapter, we hear the thoughts of Senga’s daughter Sharon who has come home to be with her dying mother. They have had a close relationship but Sharon is quite shocked to find that there is a lot about her mother’s life that she did not know. Each chapter also includes sections of Senga’s diary. There’s a very different style to this, conversational almost, as Senga confides the details of her daily life in her big red book.
Reading Senga’s diary brings back memories for Sharon and she realises that she didn’t understand what her mum’s life was like back then. It was hard for her as a single parent and yet she had done what she could to keep her kids clothed, fed and above all happy.
This book offers a nostalgic look at the 70s and there’s a lot you might recognise, not always fondly. Smoking on a public transport, the Radio Rentals man, home perms, Ken and Deidre on Coronation Street, Fray Bentos pies, Pippa Dee parties, the long hot summer of 76. One particular phrase made me smile and I hadn’t heard or thought of it for ages – Annacker’s midden is a phrase my mum might have used to described my teenage bedroom! The 70s setting for the novel was only a generation or so ago, yet it seems like a different world.
One important theme in this book is that of women helping women. Senga and her friends may not have much materially but they have strength, courage and resilience. I so enjoyed reading about how they all helped and supported each other. They were spirited, full of life and determination despite the difficulties they faced.
I really enjoyed reading about Senga and her friends in the 70s. Their lives weren’t easy but Janey Godley showed how community and friendship was so important. She also didn’t shy away from showing the darker side of life due to poverty, poor living conditions and domestic abuse. I thought this was a solid debut novel and would read more from Janey Godley. However, as you may know, she has a terminal cancer diagnosis so whether she has any more novels planned, I don’t know. Like Janey Godley herself, her characters show determination, resilience and courage.
Nothing Left Unsaid is published by Hodder & Stoughton and available now.
About the Author
Multi-award-winning Scottish comedian, playwright, award-winning blogger, best-selling author and former Scotsman newspaper columnist Janey Godley has performed her comedy shows and one-woman play around the world, including off-Broadway in New York. She is a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute. She was born 1961 in Glasgow. This is her first novel. She has written two non-fiction books: Handstands in the Dark and Frank Get the Door.