Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned. And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
Hi and welcome to my review of There’s Only One Danny Garvey!
The year is 1996 and if Facebook had existed already, Danny Garvey’s relationship status would have been: it’s complicated. Not with a woman (or a man, for that matter), but with his brother Raymond, his mother Libby, and Higgy, the closest thing he’s ever had to a dad. It’s because of Higgy that Danny is now going back to his roots, to all the things and people he ran from a decade ago. So now he’s back in old-fashioned rural Barshaw, no longer the talented youth player he once was, but older and perhaps wiser and likely still as damaged, as manager of the Barshaw Bridge junior team. That only scratches the surface though. The more the reader finds out, the more questions arise, leading to finale that well and truly shook me.
If you read that blurb and half discarded Danny Garvey because you don’t like football, please don’t! I admit, if it hadn’t been Orenda I probably wouldn’t have given it a shot either, but it is, so I did, because I figured there would be a lot more to it, and I was right.
Look, I am not a football fan AT ALL. The closest I come to watching a match is when the hubby shouts about a goal made or missed and I glance up from my book and see the recap, or part thereof, cos really, I could hardly care less. Yet I rather enjoyed the football elements in Danny Garvey. To my surprise I actually liked reading about managing a junior football team. And of course the main focus is on the emotional side of the game and it’s those emotions that drew me into Danny Garvey. Although I do think football fans might get a little more from this story, David F. Ross made me care about his characters, and therefore also about football, in a way I didn’t think even remotely possible. I have never rooted for any existing football team as much as I rooted for Barshaw Bridge FC.
There’s more to Danny and Danny Garvey than football though, lots more. The Garvey family have tons of issues, in that way Danny Garvey is very much a character-driven story but there are quite a few mysterious storylines as well, some skeletons just waiting for someone to open the cupboard, and I was dying to do just that. (Let me tell you, though, I was not in any way prepared for what fell out when I’d finally pried open that cupboard door!).
The story is told from the POV of Danny himself in the first person present tense, interspersed with snippets of other characters’ thoughts, another character each chapter. That might sound a little messy but it’s actually an original and very efficient way of not only exploring the other characters but also juxtaposing opinions and different perceptions of the same event at the same time.
True to form, the dialogue is written partially in dialect, ah instead of I, no’ instead of not, things like tae and nae. I won’t lie, it might take some getting used to, it did for me, which is why I thought I ought to mention it, but in my humble opinion it is well worth any effort you have to put in. While it made it a wee bit more difficult for me to get into the story, it was actually one of the things that kept me there, one of the elements that gave the whole thing a sheen of authenticity.
Danny Garvey is absolutely masterful in its characterisation and setting. The Scottish working class in the 90s, I know little about it, but it felt very real and very authentic. The 90s vibe is there, as much as the 70s vibe was there in Welcome to the Heady Heights, and I’m a 90s child, so I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time, enjoying the Friends references and the music references, snorting when “morning glory” is said in response to the question “what’s the story?”. In terms of characters, the person who truly stole the show for me was most definitely Damo, Danny’s nephew. Presumably somewhere on the autism spectrum, Damo is a somewhat troubled ten-year-old who can be incredibly beguiling one minute and quite violent the next.
There’s Only One Danny Garvey, it seemed a far cry from the crime and psychological thrillers that are my usual cup of tea, a long step out of my comfort zone, but it had all the elements that I hold dear. It is suspenseful, it is bleak but funny, making for a bittersweet tale that broke me with its finale. I thought I had the characters all figured out but the deeper I got into their lives, the more I started doubting myself and them, and by the end I had only one word to describe There’s Only One Danny Garvey: immense.
There’s Only One Danny Garvey is out in paperback on Thursday, the 21st. It is available now in digital format.
Huge thanks to Orenda Books for the proof copy! All opinions are my own.