Mallaig Road tells the story of Alexander’s childhood in conservative 1960s Cape Town, his high school years in Johannesburg, and his early adult years. The story spans the decade between the Maclean family’s arrival in Cape Town from Kenya in April 1965, and Alexander’s first extended visit to Britain during 1976.
On the surface, Alexander’s childhood (the events of which – great and small – form the core of this affectionate observation of a boy’s life) is an idyllic one. But no childhood is truly without its dark corners, and in Alexander’s case, it is asthma which overshadows his childhood years. Furthermore, we observe the first early signs of a sometimes-troubled life to come, as Alexander navigates a path through his teenage years at high school.
But these early indications of future unhappiness are few.
Anyone who grew up in the suburbs in the nineteen-sixties (and in particular, in suburban Cape Town) will find much that strikes a chord.
Alexander’s character is not yet fully formed by the time he sets off on his first visit to Britain, in January 1976. He is still the somewhat solitary, self-contained young man he was throughout his high school years, but he is possessed of much charm when he chooses to exercise it. During the nine months he spends in England and Scotland, Alexander learns at last how to be a social creature. He realises with surprise that people rather like him. He returns home in September that year a far more self-confident young man than he had departed.
The story of Alexander’s life, 1976 – 2021, can be read in Hemispheres: The Life of Alexander Maclean, to be published later in 2022.