Eliza Gearty’s debut novel is vivid and utterly engaging, grabbing you from the very first page and pulling you up and down Glasgow’s sandstone tenement flats, into living rooms filled with clouds of tobacco and along the city’s iconic streets.
The book is loosely based on Gearty’s own experiences as a door-to-door fundraiser, and is told through the character, Emma. Emma works for a homelessness charity and, like many fundraisers, and until only recently, a sharply rising number of the population, is employed on a zero-hour contract.
Set over the space of a year, On the Doors follows Emma’s tumultuous life, and explores the effect of precarious work on her and her colleagues. Gearty employs her gift for descriptive writing to develop characters so life-like you could swear you were on shift with them, packed on a train hurtling through the Scottish countryside.
She deftly uses her characters as vessels to showcase how insecure employment affects workers’ lives — whether it’s through their dwindling mental health, homelessness or the struggle against sexism and homophobia that are undoubtedly more prevalent in an unorganised workforce.
However, there is camaraderie too, in spite of the struggle. Gearty describes with tenderness the bonds that grow between the motley crew of workers that start out as Emma’s colleagues, and quickly become her friends. The dialogue between the characters is frequently hilarious, and brimming with Glaswegian patter, giving the novella a Ken-Loach-meets-Phoebe-Waller-Bridge feel.
At 92 pages, it’s a short read, but one that will hook you for an entire sitting, compulsively turning each page until the very end.
Published by a small independent company, there are a few tiny editorial errors, but this only adds to the charm. Overall, this sparky, poetic, and very lively book is a must-read for any member of the “precariat”, and everyone interested in the struggle of the workforce today
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