It is 1954 and the women of a Scottish mining community are poised to take it forward into the second half of the twentieth century with or without help from their men. We follow a year in the life of three couples:
Kate is mourning the loss of her two grown-up children who have emigrated to Canada. She longs to join them. Johnnie is a rising star in the mining industry, full of his own ambitions and blind to Kate’s misery. His crotchety old mother is no longer able to live alone and he takes it for granted that Kate will take on the work of caring for her.
Aggie, Kate’s older sister, has taken over the running of a small bakery, despite scorn and predictions of failure from Eck, a zealous union official who hates Johnnie for “betraying the men” and moving into management. Eck is plagued by impotence and depression, Aggie is sharp-tongued and rebellious; their marriage is a battlefield of abuse and deceit. But she is a beautiful singer and, when the opportunity arises for her to sing solo on a big stage, she seizes it - without Eck’s knowledge.
Aggie discovers that Kate is also deceiving her husband with secret weekly excursions. Where can she be going? Curiosity and jealousy of her younger, prettier sister lead her to seek the help of
Jeannie, the village gossip, sharp, intelligent and energetic. She agrees to take on the investigation, to the bemusement of her big, slow-witted husband, Bob, who is Eck’s workmate down the mine and the recipient of his confidences.
This novel will have you laughing out loud and occasionally wiping away a tear. There are dark themes of loss, exploitation and abuse but also bright themes of love, friendship and fulfilment.
As the women struggle with the strangleholds of tradition and religion, it seems as if only a miracle can help. But when the clock strikes twelve on Hogmanay, everyone is in for a surprise!