Cathy McSporran Cold City cover largeCold City by Cathy McSporran

reviewed by Pamela Scott

This was my first time reading Cold City, McSporran’s debut novel. I wanted to read it because the premise reminded me of Lanark by Alasdair Grey, one of my favourite novels of all time.

I loved Cold City. McSporran’s debut is one of my books of the year. I found Cold City a sheer joy to read. I loved the premise and the alternative Glasgow’s that Susie encounters. I loved all the little nods to Norse Mythology and the world of Odin, Freya, Fimbulwinter and Ragnorak. I loved reading about Norse Mythology so Cold City was a rare treat. McSporran is very brave to tackle such an emotional subject as mental illness and pulls it off without being too depressing or flippant. The characters in Cold City were great. I loved the way McSporran brought Glasgow to life. I loved the crazy Christians and their attempts to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Cold City is wonderful and different.

‘An utterly absorbing and captivating debut. The scope of McSporran’s vision is exhilarating, moving between psychiatric ward and chilling alternate reality. Cold City rises above genre classification, delivering drama, emotional depth and existential enquiry. A remarkable achievement.’ Vicki Jarrett, author ofNothing is Heavy

‘a well told, compelling and very wintry tale about repression and mental illness.’ Diva Magazine

Cold City is ambitious, fresh, original and successful.’ Dundee University Review of the Arts

Do you believe that different realities can intersect? In her debut novel, Cathy McSporran has created two worlds, which protagonist Susan flips between. It’s a tale of two Glasgows – one where Susan has been committed to a psychiatric hospital following a drugs overdose, and is controlled by prescription drugs. In the ‘other’ Glasgow – that Cold City: wolves roam, militant pagan groups dominate, and there’s a permanent covering of snow and ice on the Clyde. When she first arrives here Susan’s family and friends are shocked to see her as they thought she was dead. Her memory fails her – even she can’t explain what happened or where she’s been.

This is a thought-provoking story which questions a person’s consciousness and psyche. As Susan slips unpredictably back and forth, often waking up in deep snow, the reader accompanies her on a journey of mental breakdown and becomes fond of her fighting spirit. This text is bound by narrator Susan’s typical Glaswegian humour which surfaces unexpectedly and therefore creates even more impact.

Is Susan ‘deeply disturbed’? What has she invented, and what is real? Cold City is a captivating mystery which introduces you to a major new voice in women’s literary fiction. Tina Koenig ‘The Skinny’ 02 Oct 2014