Beatrice Colin - The Songwriter (4 stars)

Beatrice Colin - The Songwriter

(John Murray)

One of the more promising new writers in Scotland returns with a fourth novel which sets its sights far from her home country. In the same manner as Glasgow-based Beatrice Colin’s last book The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite explored German society in the first third of the 20th century, so The Songwriter rolls over the Atlantic to America in the same time period: specifically, the first Red Scare of 1916 until the end of the decade.

Against a backdrop of jazz and prohibition, a cast of performers and glamorous aristos weave their way through these paranoid, war-stricken times. Colin, who once lived in New York herself, retraces the era with consummate period detail and beautifully flowing prose. The thicker accents found in her dialogue don’t entirely convince, but this is a minor detail alongside a story arc which presents unforced comparison with contemporary America, and which gently brings home the fact that even nations can repeat their mistakes.

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