Agnes Owens - For the Love of Willie (1998)
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
It is often remarked that Scottish scribes have a particular proclivity for mining the dark and devilish in their fiction. Agnes Owens' For the Love of Willie displays all the pitch-black humour and acute observation that have characterised her work since her debut Gentlemen of the West.
For the Love of Willie starts out in a mental institution where patient Peggy is attempting to enlist the proofreading skills of fellow resident 'the Duchess'. Initially reluctant, she is soon drawn into the tale of Peggy's early life in a small west of Scotland town. At the heart of the story is Peggy's brief and unexpected affair with her employer, Willie, with whom she falls madly in love. Initially imagining that her lover is going to leave his wife for her, Peggy is soon abandoned, pregnant, shamed and forced to fall back on her mother to make decisions about her future.
Owens has a reputation as one of Scotland's least assuming literary figures who consistently applies her eye for the quietly bizarre and ear for the bad and bitchy to the everyday and familiar. Gentlemen of the West, for instance, evolved from the colourful tales of the building trade she picked up from her husband and son. For the Love of Willie is her most accomplished work because it combines such energetic observation with an exploration of some of the most painful and difficult questions regarding love, female sexuality and repression. Not bad for a mother of seven from Balloch who joined a creative writing group because it meant 'a night away from the kids'.
View the complete list of the 100 Best Scottish Books.