NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- Donald Pinelli, an Italo-Scot living in Sydney, returns to his childhood home in Glasgow for the first time after thirty years away. His mother has died. Donald explains his long absence in the story that he tells us during the night that he's in his mother's house, alone, before the funeral takes place.
While rummaging around the empty house, he makes a discovery about Anna McColl, a girl with whom he was infatuated as a teenager, and who saved his life one day by smiling at him. The discovery is a love note from Anna, scribbled in Donald's long lost diary from 1974. It's the first time Donald has seen the note, and it shocks him enough to begin his tale.
He tells us about his mother, Trixie, a clairvoyant, whose mad world of superstition and mysticism taints that of her children; his father Carlo, a gangster mired in the Italo-Scottish underworld; his jealous sister Luce and his older half-brother, Mr Disco, cool, self-confident and successful - everything the bumbling Donald is unable to be. And he tells us too, about Anna, and about how, shortly after the episode in which she smiled at him, she disappears, feared abducted, possibly dead.
The central complicating factor in Donald's unhappy childhood is this: Trixie believes he is the victim of a curse, and that he is doomed to die by drowning on his eighteenth birthday. It is this belief which colours every aspect of Donald's growing up, and which haunts his adult life. Donald's true curse is not to die by drowning, but to suffer the consequences of a childhood blighted by Trixie's madness and a family devoid of love.
Led by Trixie's certainty that the curse will indeed unfold, the young Donald becomes obsessed with survival. A semi-mystical episode reveals to him the image of a loggerhead turtle, who will be his saviour. He discovers the Turtle for real at the local zoo, along with its keeper, Jake. Believing he is being guided by this creature, he starts, in secret, to learn how to swim, and how to hold his breath for long stretches underwater.
The climax occurs at Donald's 18th birthday. Trixie, frantic now that the day has finally come, plots to keep Donald locked up in his room. Donald escapes and heads for the coast, led there by what the Turtle has told him. He is betrayed however, by his best friend, Wee Malkie, and his family follow him. They arrive too late, just in time to see Donald wade into the sea and disappear beneath the waves.
But Donald survives, and thirty years later, he is home for Trixie's funeral, and the final act of the story, where he meets his family again, and also Anna McColl, and where the curse he has laboured under all his life may finally be lifted.