I \x‘t‘ 2‘": O...
37 The Prodigy, Natasha Beddingfield
38 Gothika, Killing Zoe
36 Richard Holloway
38 Control Room, Total Rubbish
39 Organic supermarkets
M )( )KS
SPIN CYCLE Zoé Strachan COO. lI)|(L(l(I()ll
ake a moment out of your I life to consider the number
of contemporary cultural items that have been inspired by or located among the soapy suds of the humble communal laundry. Remember, if you will, Daniel Day- Lewis and Gordon Warnecke exchanging bodily fluids as the machines whirled and Thatcher’s children hacked lumps out of each other in My Beautiful Laundrette. Fondly recall a Hogmanay spent in the company of four gallus Glesga women in Tony Roper’s smash hit The Steamie. And those of a certain age may even recollect the Small Faces’ Steve Marriott telling tales of The Darlings of Wapping Launderette.
Bringing the sub-genre bang up to date with her second novel Spin Cycle, young Glasgow novelist Zoé Strachan uses the venue as the fertile backdrop to some memorable characters and intriguing events. But whereas previous works have relied heavily on thin archetypes to make ultimately uplifting points about working-class tenacity and the power of community, Strachan’s three damaged female protagonists are complex, secretive and isolated.
Agnes, recently widowed, loves nothing better than to pore over a brand new true-crime magazine in the company of a fag and a strong coffee. Yet it’s the presence of a softcore pornographic magazine on her premises that provokes the most violent reaction from the laundrette manager, even leading her to deface the local cornershop’s top shelf collection. Agnes’ suspicion of sex and prurient fascination with gruesome deaths is partly explained by the murder of her hero-worshipped cousin Vina in the 19605, though we later learn that the pleasures of sex were largely absent from Agnes’ married life.
Her employees prove equally troubled. Myrna appears a carefree, happily promiscuous good-time girl, living for the weekend and her next big night out, but is desperately unfulfilled, craves money and material possessions and wishes her sexual encounters would live up to their drunken promise. She seeks to remedy her situation by signing up with an escort agency, a move that supplies a short-term cash injection before the inevitable client abuse and degradation begins. Myrna finds an unlikely confidante in shy fellow worker Siobhan, herself a closet lesbian in the midst of an elaborate obsession with a female customer.
on; ‘ a. “ spin cycle zoé strachan.
REFRESHINGLY, THERE'S NO CHIRPY SOLIDARITY ABOUT THE UNDERCLASS THAT POPULATES THIS BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE
Zoe Strachan’s second novel brings the Iaunderette ‘sub- genre' bang up to date
Negative Space to explore ideas of public and private behaviour, self-delusion and our tendency to project desires onto others. Refreshingly, there's no chirpy solidarity about the underclass that populates Strachan’s beautiful laundrette; characters simply occupy the same space and are judged harshly or otherwise by the women in charge. Strachan’s conclusions are less bleak than expected,
While much of her behaviour seems warped, ironically, it is the very fine line Siobhan treads between reality and sexual fantasy that ultimately liberates her.
Switching between her protagonists’ points of view as they gossip and plot about the customers, the author uses the sardonic humour that characterised her excellent debut
though, and it’s the zero hour pulling together of her troubled trio that ultimately provides their salvation. If the denouement is a bit contrived in terms of the novel’s overall episodic structure, this is a minor gripe about an otherwise rich, poignant work which shores up Strachan’s reputation as a bold, mature writer. (Allan Radcliffe)
1 THE LIST 35