At first glance, this is a girlie beach read. This is mostly because of the girly cursive writing and the pastel purple and turquoise. I'd read one of Muir's other books (Left Bank) a few years back and while I don't remember the plot, I remember liking it. I didn't buy this - someone gave it to me - but I read it. Mostly because it's about a seaside village in the west of Scotland, and I'm in a seaside village in the west of Scotland.
To my delight, West Coast is far jucier than a beach read. It follows the story of Fergus MacFarlane, a photographer from a wee village who becomes a celebrated London photographer. Told in chunks that span years, the narration is far more Nick Hornby than Jane Green. The slices of Fergus's life are vivid and mesmirizing, from his lazy teenage days of birdwatching and snogging girls to his high society wedding to a Home Counties debutante to his coke-filled exhibit openings at trendy London galleries.
It's obvious that Muir knows Scotland and she knows photography. The curious and compelling photography exhibitions Fergus creates are clever and perfect for his character. He's a bastard, but a loveable one. His past defines him in both the positive and the negative. I might go as far as to say Fergus loosely represents Scotland as it reaches out into the world.
I showed the cover to M and he dismissed it. I read him some passages and he laughed, commented, found it interesting. That is what annoys me about this book. Here is the hardcover art, as shown in The Guardian:
Still not masculine, but far more likely to be picked up by a male than the top cover. I've ranted about this before; covers do maketh the book. People see a cover and immediately make a judgement. It's frustrating that Muir's book is being marketed as fluff rather than a solid, compelling read. Granted, there are a few moments of fluff (pointed details as to clothing brands and other upper-class demonstratives), but this would be a worthy book group read, though my book group would likely be put off by the fluffy cover.