Daisy Chain by Maggie Ritchie

In The Daisy Chain, Maggie Ritchie paints a vivid picture of 1920s Glasgow – a time when life for women was undergoing lots of change. It follows the stories of Lily and Jeanie – childhood friends from Kirkcudbright – whose lives take them in very different directions but always bring them back together again.  

Lily is a talented artist and attends Glasgow School of Art, but finds it much harder than the men to make her mark on the art world. Jeanie runs away from home and lives with show people, until she gets her big break as a dancer. While Jeanie is dancing and raising her daughter with Victor, Lily ends up living in Shanghai with Hugh, her missionary husband.  This was a time and place I knew nothing about and so found this part of the story especially fascinating and informative.

The story is told from both Lily and Jeanie’s point of view, in the present and in flashback, and the characters are well rounded and believable. I was attracted to this book partly by the striking cover art – a portrait of Anne Finlay by Dorothy Johnston from Aberdeen Art Gallery – and partly by the subject matter. I enjoyed the various references to places and people associated with art history such as Kirkcudbright, Cockburnspath, the Glasgow School of Art building and the cameo appearance by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (did you spot it?). I have not read anything by this author before but will certainly look out for her next book having enjoyed The Daisy Chain very much.