The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Meticulously observed, agonizing and funny, this unconventional account of clinical depression was the novelistic debut of the author of the praised short-story collection Blood (1991). Drama teacher Joy Stone has become severely depressed following the death of her married lover. Surrounded by his effects in the house they briefly shared, she can’t summon the will to work or even to eat, nor can she benefit from the concern of her friends. Interspersed flashbacks to the day of her lover’s death have a sensual, physical quality that contrasts vividly with Joy’s present detachment. The nature of Joy’s illness – and its accurate depiction, captured partly by an unusual spacing of the text in addition to journal entries, interviews and impressionistic passages – makes her a difficult choice for a narrator: readers may lose patience with her lassitude or be unwilling to put in the time needed to decipher the basic plot. However, the ironic, self-mocking tone that ultimately saves Joy also saves the narrative. Faced with an impersonal health care system, her sense of the ridiculous takes over, and with it self-reliance. Janice Galloway ( and delivers a thoughtful, witty chronicle of depression and potential renewal.

This was first published in the United Kingdom by Polygon in 1989. The novel won the MIND/Allen Lane Book of the Year and was also shortlisted for both the Whitbread First Novel and Scottish First Book awards.

240 pages in Vintage paperback edition

ISBN 978-0749391737

Janice Galloway

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