James Barke: Major Operation


The latest addition to my website is James Barke‘s Major Operation. Barke is a Scottish novelist who has sadly disappeared from view, though Canongate did reissue his Land of the Leal. This novel is set in Depression-era Glasgow and is overtly left-wing. We follow the tale of some ship workers who lose their jobs when the Depression hits and a bourgeois coal broker who loses both his firm and his wife. George Anderson, the coal broker, ends up in a charity hospital, with a duodenal ulcer and inflamed appendix, where he meets several members of the working class and, in particular, Jock MacKelvie. To his surprise, he not only gets to like them but soon becomes close to them and very close to Jock, so much so that he espouses Jock’s socialist views. However, life outside the hospital is still harsh and George struggles. Barke tells an excellent story of Glasgow in the Depression and, while he is certainly is not impartial, and is happy to damn the bourgeoisie, he does have a soft spot for George and his rich cast of characters on both sides of the fence gives us an excellent portrait of Glasgow of the period.

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