The Walk Home by Rachel Seiffert

I’ve never considered the flute to be a particularly controversial instrument, but apparently it can be. Reading The Walk Home I was thrown, unexpectedly, into a world where joining a marching band can be a highly political act, just one step away from links to a loyalist paramilitary organisation – and the type of thing that can, and does, rip families apart.

The story swaps back and forth between 1990s Scotland, during the Troubles – with Graham and his young wife Lindsey and their baby Stevie – and current day Glasgow, as the adult Stevie returns to the place he left as a young teen when the level of hurt and recrimination within the confines of his family grew too much for him to bear. Graham sought a good, peaceful life for his family, but still played in the annual Protestant Orange Walk through Glasgow. It’s here that the roots of division lie, and personal histories rattle the present.

There is a touch of the Biblical to this book; as well as raking over old Protestant–Catholic rivalries, and shining a light on family dynamics and dysfunction, a very strong Prodigal Son theme runs throughout. Beautifully written, The Walk Home has an aching empathy for each of the characters, and Rachel Seiffert examines exactly how a well-meaning couple, with a sweet and well-loved child, can crumple into three completely separate individuals, turning their backs on one another and each with a great reluctance to come back together.

If you like your stories wistful and somewhat heart-breaking, you’ll love this quietly elegant and graceful novel.

Gabrielle Williams