20 August 2009
Opening doors in other people’s memories
‘The reaction to Choke Chain has been positive and often emotional,’ says Glasgow-based author Jason Donald, whose first novel was published earlier this year. His debut is a tender, at times uncomfortable, coming-of-age tale of two brothers growing up in 1980s South Africa, dominated by a bullying father figure.
Bruce Thorne is man of the house, and believes the best way to avoid raising a pair of sissies is to feed them a macho diet of bare-knuckle fighting, casual racism and scams to get out of paying the bills. ‘People email me saying they loved the book but were in tears by the last few chapters,’ reveals Donald. ‘Someone said they were “physically shaking with anger” at Bruce. Many mild-mannered readers have confessed they were wishing for terrible things to happen to him.’
Donald’s description of a hot summer in Pretoria, with car trips to the beach at Durban, or barbecues under the purple jacaranda trees was inspired by his own childhood. Born in Dundee to a South African mum and Scottish dad, he moved with his family to Pretoria aged two and returned to Scotland when he was 16.
‘Quite a few people who grew up in South Africa say my book opened up doors in their memories,’ says Donald, who is currently working on a second novel about asylum seekers in Glasgow. ‘The sky, the heat, walking around barefoot, their experiences of apartheid. These conversations have been an unexpected reward.’