More Full of Weeping by Susan Delaney is the story of the childhood of one young Scot, Hugh MacSoirbheas. We first encounter him in April 1920 when, as an infant, he is handed over to a Glasgow orphanage by his very young mother, who feels she had little option if she is to give her illegitimate son a better chance in life than he will get if she keeps him. Against all the odds, Hugh grows up as a happy orphan. He has a changing cast of childhood friends at the orphanage, and forms a close bond with Bessie, the daughter of the orphanage's supervisor, Dolina Matheson. Hugh's main aim is to remain at the orphanage, and he works hard to deter potential foster parents who consider him from time to time.
When he is eventually fostered out, at the age of 7, it is into a "family" that is not quite what the orphanage believes it to be, and he soon returns. But then his world changes for good when he is fostered by a crofter from the Hebridean island of Hulderay, a fictional island located somewhere south of South Uist. Hugh has learned Gaelic from Dolina Matheson, but still finds adjusting to an island community difficult: a process made no easier by the overt hostility of his foster mother and the dislike of his school mistress, who cannot see beyond her image of him as a troublemaker from the city. As Hugh turns fourteen his life becomes even more difficult, and it begins to look as if his dreams of making something of his life are to be smothered by an existence that amounts to little better than slavery on Hulderay. But then the wheel turns once more, and past and present come together in a way that produces an ending that is as unexpected as it is... Well, to finish that sentence would spoil the well crafted climax of the book, so we will leave it unfinished.
It is difficult to write a book about a place and a society that is not your own, and we have seen examples of authors based abroad who have failed to overcome the difficulties involved in writing convincingly about Scotland. Susan Delaney has done an excellent job in producing a book that overcomes these difficulties very well indeed. The characters come off the page very nicely, and the story builds steadily towards its conclusion in a way that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The end result is a thoroughly readable and thoroughly enjoyable novel.