The Trick is to Keep Breathing (novel)

The Trick is to Keep Breathing (novel)

"The Trick is to Keep Breathing" is the first novel from the writer Janice Galloway. It was first published in the United Kingdom by Polygon in 1989. The novel won the MIND/Allen Lane Book of the Year and was also shortlisted for both the Whitbread First Novel and Scottish First Book awards.

Plot summary

Drama teacher Joy Stone is losing her grip. In an intriguing story of the onset and evolution of depression, her problems accumulate, denial activates, and food becomes a major player. All the while, she is trying to cope with the loss of her married lover and her own mother.

Through the wit and irony that is gaining international applause, Galloway crafts the chicken-or-egg dilemma of life in our times and being depressed. Yet even through her growing obsessions and the metamorphoses of family and friends into suspicious characters, Galloway's main character and the reader find that the trick in living rests with the simplest things.


Joy Stone

The novel's protagonist and narrator. She is 27 years old. She lives on a council estate on the outskirts of Irvine, Ayrshire, not far from the dilapidated cottage she owns. She is a Drama teacher, and works part-time at a bookmakers. She is anorexic, and possibly as a consequence no longer menstruates. She voraciously reads women's magazines. She is an alcoholic.


Joy's friend who is also a teacher. For the duration of the novel she is teaching in Kentucky, USA. She regularly writes to Joy.


The mother of Marianne. She lives alone in a house too large for one person. She loves to cook, and equates food with happiness.

Michael Fisher

He was the husband of Norma Fisher, and Joy's lover. He drowned in a swimming pool in Spain when on holiday with Joy before the novel's own timeline. His death is retold throughout the novel in italicized text.


Joy's ex-husband. Childhood sweethearts, they were married for seven years.

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