Thursday 28 July 2011

Favourite Scottish Reads - as seen on Twitter

A brief post provoked by a question from @EdinCityofLit on Twitter earlier this week about favourite Scottish reads. Now, on Twitter you've got about 10 seconds to think of something clever or amusing, or even preferably both, to say. So briefly hunting round my brain I picked

The Crow Road by Iain Banks
All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye by Christopher Brookmyre
Bloodstone by Gillian Philip

and then watched as everyone else came up with more sensible ideas - Kate Atkinson's Case Histories series, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, anything by Alexander McCall Smith....

Anyway, I thought I'd defend myself .....

The Crow Road - yes, it opens with an attention grabbing sentence about the narrator's grandmother exploding but what makes this book stand out for me is the almost fictional landscape that Iain Banks creates. Some authors set their books in places recognisable to their readers; some create a totally imaginary setting: in The Crow Road the two meet. Many of the places are real and the fictional ones wrap round, under and over them (mirroring the relationship between life and fiction). Go to Crinan (a place I knew before reading the book) and you can visualise where Gallanach must be - you can imagine a viaduct crossing Loch Fyne at Minard - and heading back towards Glasgow, you'll drive carefully in case that fatal litter bin is still there! Stand at Crinanferry and you can visualise an alternative world where Upper Loch Crinan is a deep water port rather than mud-flats barely covered at high tide, where a bustling town with docks and glass works grew up on its banks, maybe peopled by folk just like Prentice McHoan and his exploding grandma!
People often ask about novels that have impacted on readers lives and in an immensely trivial way this has - every time we drive on the motorway, I encourage my husband to try Ashley's trick of crossing from one lane to the next without hitting the cat's eyes!

All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye - an action-packed comic escapade that I happened when talking about it recently to liken to Charlie's Angels. So why put it up there in favourite reads? Because of the heroine, Jane Fleming - who's led a life of dull propriety until she suddenly finds herself plunged into a world of fast cars, designer clothing and international espionage worthy of a Bond girl. But Jane is no young bimbo - she's a 46 yr old granny! After years trapped in dull routine, she has the chance to break out of the mould her family have cast her in, to live the life she always wanted and prove that age is no barrier to having fun!

- cheating a bit to include this as it's not published till August. I've recently read a proof copy and found some of its passages the most harrowing I've ever read. Gillian Philip is not an author to let her characters, or her reader, off lightly and there's no pulling of punches when it comes to making them suffer. When you think the characters have all the emotional and physical turmoil they can stand - there's more to come! I'm not a person to sob my way through any sad parts and tear-jerkers don't normally work on me, but at a certain point while reading, I called a temporary halt - put the book in the freezer for a while, as Joey from Friends does - because it didn't seem right and proper to carry on without a pause, so much was I involved with the characters, their pain and grief.

So, there we go, my favourite three Scottish reads - certainly the three that sprang to mind quickest.

What would you pick?

This originally appeared on Maryom's personal blog 19/07/11

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