Wednesday, 30 November, 2022 in Book Reviews, Books, Music

Into Books Review: Brown Sauce by Pauline Lagan

Book: Brown Sauce
Author: Pauline Lagan
Publisher: Razur Cuts Books

Falkirk might not be the centre of the universe but its cultural backdrop has, and is, certainly punching and making an impact. At the town’s Callendar House, there is a music exhibition (Scenes) on now, looking back on the area’s bands such as The Cocteau Twins, Arab Strap and The Two Helens. It also shines a light on the likes of Brian Guthrie who did so much to bring acts such as Echo & the Bunnymen and Simple Minds to local venues. Add in Lindsay Hutton who produced The Next Big Thing fanzine and set up The Cramps only officially (briefly) endorsed fan club The Legion of the Cramped and it all adds up to quite the scene. Fast forward to now and the town continues to deliver quality. Bands such as The Media Whores, Vulture Party and Brogeal are making amazing, fresh music and novelist, playwright and performer Alan Bissett is going from strength to strength (check out The Moira Monologues) with a new book, Lads: A Guide to Respect and Consent, due to land in August 2023. 

Then there is the street literature magazine Razur Cuts who not only bring together the best of local talent but they extend that to anyone, anywhere across anything culturally cool. Razur Cuts are the publishers behind the debut novel of Pauline Lagan and, yet again, they’ve backed a winner. Don’t just take my word for it. Acclaimed Scottish author David F. Ross said of Lagan’s debut novel…

Pauline Lagan and Razur Cuts Books are a match made in heaven. Brown Sauce is a sparkling debut novel laced with laugh out loud humour and infused with sensitivity and heart. A book so sharp it could cut glass.

The book tells the story and life from the point of view of chief protagonist Davina Brown/Katy Miller. There are many aspects running through the book and Lagan does well to intertwine the various storylines without over-complicating the core narrative. 

Davina starts off as a nervous hotel receptionist but, after a chance encounter with a whisky salesman, Hamish Hamilton, she soon evolves into a confident, audacious woman taking on extra-curricular activities as an escort (AKA Katy Miller). 

As matters develop, Davina’s life becomes more and more complicated, and she struggles to keep her second life from her (seemingly) tightly knit family and friends. Gradually family life begins to spiral out of control as her brother reveals a deeply guarded secret and her confident sister withdraws into a shell of her own, due to her own current relationship. 

Then there is Logan McIntyre, an old school/family friend who Davina gradually falls in love with, while at the same time hoarding more than emotional ties with Hamilton. 

The book is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, passages and one liners that will have you guffawing with laughter while the next page will have you cringing at what the hell is going on. That’s not an easy thing to pull off and to do so, so easily in a debut novel is quite something. At times, we read what is going through Davina’s head, these range from funny to sad to self-loathing to joy to regret and everything in-between. 

Ultimately, Davina wants to get out of the escort game, set up a new business venture with her sister Marge (with the help of a cross-dressing millionaire MP), and settle down to live a normal (what the hell is that)? life. Simple enough but with the twists and turns each chapter brings it’s easier said than done. 

 This is a more than assured debut novel from Lagan, sprinkled with comedy, romance, erotica, self doubt and a fair amount of dilemmas to which there is rarely a straightforward answer. 

To order Brown Sauce, head over to the Razur Cuts website here.

John Welsh




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