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Found 25 results

  1. Eleanor Oliphant is 30 years old, lives in Glasgow, works on accounts at a graphic designer, wears the same practical clothes every day, eats the same food and spends her weekend drinking vodka and doing the crosswords. Eleanor has no friends and no social life – beyond her weekly conversation with her mother. It’s existing, but it’s not really living. Initially it has a feel of The Rosie Project. Comedy drawn from the lack of social awareness of someone with an undiagnosed psychological disorder somewhere close to Asperger’s Syndrome. But it soon becomes clear that Eleanor’s problems are born
  2. This Is Memorial Device is a fictional documentary of a fictional band, Memorial Device, that hailed from Airdrie, a small, predominantly Protestant town in the west of Scotland. The documentary is compiled by Ross Raymond, a wannabe journalist whose youth was greatly impacted by the local music scene. The four band members of Memorial Device were his heroes. The band was seen as the culmination of various precursor bands, and shone brightly and briefly before the members went off to pursue different directions. Some chapters are editorial, written by Ross himself. Others are
  3. Fairly closely based on the Bible John murders in Glasgow in the 1960s, The Quaker offers a fictitious resolution to these unsolved murders. Three women have been slain in Glasgow, meeting their killer in the Barrowlands ballroom and never making it home. The third victim had shared a taxi with her stocious sister and The Quaker; the sister offered the best – and only – hope of catching the killer. But after a year there had been no breakthrough and DI Duncan McCormack is sent into the investigation to determine whether or not to scale it down. This leads to a complex story that is, on
  4. Hame is a satirical takedown of romanticised Scotticism with its bards, bagpipes, and tartan trews. The basic premise is that Mhairi McPhail, a Scot by birth but with a New York accent, is returning to her homeland to establish a museum on the Isle of Fascaray dedicated to the Isle's famous son, the poet Grigor McWatt. The novel is made up from interleaved sections of Mhairi's diary, her published work A Granite Ballad - The Reimagining of Grigor McWatt, various essays and writings of McWatt from published sources, and McWatt's poems. Together they make up the story of McWatt, com
  5. Wow. I mean, seriously, Wow! His Bloody Project masquerades as a plot driven historical crime novel, but is in fact a character driven exploration of a 19th century Scottish crofting community were a small number of people are forced to live in close proximity despite not liking one another. You know, right from the outset, that this is going to be a bit special when there are a series of contradictory statements from the Culduie residents about the murder of Lachlan Broad Mackenzie and the prime suspect, Roddy Macrae. Every statement was written in a distinctive voice, but all steeped
  6. Bernard MacLaverty is a sublime writer and Midwinter Break is as good as anything he has ever written. Gerry and Stella Gilmore are a long-married couple of pensionable age, living in Glasgow but originally from the north of Ireland. Gerry is fond of a nightcap and Stella has quite a strong Catholic faith. They know one another inside out. They have decided to take a mid-winter break to Amsterdam, perhaps to celebrate their enduring marriage. Gradually, and gently, we start to see the flaws in the characters emerge. This is done with such grace; the reader knows, likes
  7. All The Galaxies is a strange and hypnotic blend of four stories that cross and merge and unmerge again.First, there is Scotland in the near future. Following a second independence referendum (which we presume Scotland lost), law and order has broken down in The Horrors, but strong city state governments have emerged from the remnants of local councils. Within Greater Glasgow, control is being reasserted, the internet has been restored and the leader of the sinister Wardens movement, Wee Lawrence, is in Barlinnie. Oh, and Rangers FC (or should that be Sevco) is no more – so it’s not all doom a
  8. PC Callum McGregor stuffed up the crime scene in his last investigation - so he finds himself shunted off to a "Misfit Mob" in Oldcastle, a bleak (and fictional) city on the east coast of Scotland. Nothing ever happens there; it is a sheltered posting for the war-wounded, incompetent and untouchable police from across Scotland. So imagine their surprise when some grisly remains turn up and they get the job of investigating. A Dark So Deadly is a long book - the guts of 200,000 words as Stuart MacBride manages to drop into the text in a spot of metafiction. This allows space for plo
  9. I have previously read two Kelmans - You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, and A Disaffection. From these two, I understood Kelman to be a master of the interior monologue of mundane/seedy characters. In YHTBC, it was a Scots alcoholoc in the USA, looking to return home. In Disaffection, it was a pretty hopeless teacher failing to hit it off with a pretty work colleague. I thought YHTBC was a masterpiece, but A Disaffection left me rather cold. The thing is, with these monologues, that you have to actually care about the character and his life - there's no plot or action worth speaki
  10. Murdo’s mother has died. His sister died a few years earlier, both of some kind of genetic cancer. It only affects the women. Murdo and his Dad Tommy have decided to spend some time away from their home on the west coast of Scotland. They have gone to stay with Uncle John in Alabama. They arrive in Memphis Airport after a gruelling journey via Glasgow and Amsterdam; Murdo has forgotten his phone and Dad has forgotten his driving licence. They head for the buses. They don’t talk much and when they do, they seem to be treading on eggshells. It seems destined to be a long holiday. Murdo i
  11. I guess James Kelman isn't everyone's cup of tea. He seems (from reading only two of his works!) to do interior monologue of down at heel, ordinary folk very well. The trouble is, the interior monologue of down at heel, ordinary folk can be quite repetitive and rather dull. And, in case anyone is wondering, nothing happens. There isn't some brilliant twist that pulls it together at the end. Wysiwyg. Having read A Disaffection, I feel that I know Patrick Doyle pretty well.I understand his failings and inadequacies. I understand how he is envious of his brother's family, as his brother is en
  12. The Illuminations feels like two short novellas that have been interleaved, presumably in an effort to add bulk. On the one hand, we have Anne, an elderly mother who is succumbing slowly to dementia. Her family knows that she had lived in the United States and England before settling down in Ayrshire, but as her recent memories fade, she exposes the hints of old secrets. And on the other hand, there’s the story of Luke, a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, witnessing brutality and betrayal – then failing to adjust to life back home. Luke is Anne’s grandson. Of the two stories, Anne’s is more
  13. These Demented Lands is a bit of a mixed bag. We meet an unnamed woman, swimming from some wreck, landing up on an unnamed shore that is probably somewhere in Argyllshire. The land is populated by weird eccentrics who seem to have no connection with the wider world, just sitting there being weird in this closed community. Our narrator hears that there is a hotel and decides to set off on a perilous journey across the dangerous land to reach the hotel. As the novel progresses, we reach the hotel which attracts honeymoon couples who fly in to the nearby airstrip. It seems there was an accid
  14. I had expected to be writing a gushing review exhorting people to read a great novel from one of Scotland’s liveliest writers. I have loved almost everything Ali Smith has written. Alas, How To Be Both has not hit the mark. Basically, it is two novellas, stitched together. In one of them, we find a 15th century Italian girl, dressed as a boy in order to pass herself off as a painter, working on frescoes for the local Duke. This girl, who adopts the name of Francescho, spends time exploring her sexuality in brothels, consorting with a pickpocket, and demanding more money. Oh, and she is dea
  15. Last year, ahead of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Organising Committee announced that the launch ceremony would feature the detonation of the remaining 30-storey Red Road tower blocks as the spectacular centrepiece. There was an outcry from past residents of the blocks who felt this would not be a dignified end to the homes they had lived in, often for many years. The Red Road blocks had become so unloved that this backlash surprised many people. This Road Is Read is the story of those blocks. Beginning in 1964, we find nothing more than a pile of sand. From the sand rose girde
  16. Fishnet is a novel with an agenda. It seeks to humanise the world of prostitution. If that doesn’t fit with your own world view then please don’t read this novel – it will just make you froth at the mouth and increase your risk of stroke. At the outset, Fishnet is weird. It starts with a section narrated in second person and then moves on to copy from web adverts for sex workers. It feels very disorientating and confusing. I imagine some readers will be put off by this – but it does calm down. When the novel gets going, it settles down into six chapters, each consisting of two interleaved
  17. I am surprised there isn't a thread on this already. I started off thinking I would be a No come September 2014, not for any discernable reasons other than I don't like change, what is the point, I hate Alex Salmond. I was pretty unshaken in my view and listened to all the arguments for and against. I have found, though, that I am increasingly becoming a Yes. I can't pinpoint exactly why...I think it comes down to dissatisfaction at being governed by a party that won no seats in Scotland, growing disgust at the various antics of the government down south (not sure a Scottish Government wou
  18. I wanted to love A Book Of Death And Fish. Stunning reviews, promising the definitive Hebridean novel, centred on Stornoway where I spent a happy year of my life. What could there possibly be not to like? Sadly, the reality was a hotch potch of short articles, mostly telling us things we already knew (the fate of the Iolaire) or things we could never possibly want to know (the intimate details of fishing for business and pleasure). It read like journalism, not fiction. The voice varies from wooden and factual to outlandish Scots. This, despite (as far as I could tell) the supposition of a sin
  19. Charity collections of short stories are a bit of a gamble; this one pays off. Ten writers, all top rate (many of whose full works I have previously read) and all contributing good stories. The theme is crime; in many cases this means good old murder, but one or two of the writers have taken a more oblique angle. In the case of Christopher Brookmyer's and Alison Kennedy's stories, it's not actually clear what crime, if any, has been committed. Nevertheless, these are perhaps two of the standout stories. Only a couple of the stories didn't quite work for me; the rest may not all have been deep,
  20. Jim Drever is a stillman at an unnamed distillery in the Scottish Highlands. It is a solitary job, allowing much time for introspection between recording measurements of alcoholic strength in the logbook. Jim’s job is important; he is respected in the workplace by his colleagues and the management. He has a perfect family; a wife, a daughter who is about to get married; and a younger son. Jim has a placid nature; he has no great wish to travel or see the world; he simply accepts the cards that life has dealt him. But beneath the calm exterior, Jim has a lot going on. He is haunted by a visit
  21. This novel blew me away. It is a story, narrated in first person, by Cal and Manny, two young squaddies in Germany in the early 1990s. Cal is a Glaswegian; Manny is from Essex. They are in the Catering Corps, have no great military ambitions, and live for the dirty rugs (drugs) they score in Hamburg’s seamy nightclubs. Cal and Manny are best buddies. As one of the characters explains, 4am is a transitional time. It is no longer still night, but not quite day. It is a time when things change; it is a time when many people who die in their sleep pass away. In the nightclubs, it is the time to d
  22. The Amber Fury is a first novel and, I’m afraid, it shows. Set in contemporary Edinburgh, we find Alex Morris starting off a new role providing drama therapy within an educational unit for kids who have been thrown out of mainstream schools. We soon learn that the role was made available by her former university tutor as a favour to allow Alex to escape from London and her grief following the death of her fiancé Luke. But how far has she exchanged one uncomfortable situation for another? The real trouble with the novel is that the plot, pacing and structure seem to operate in competi
  23. The Red Road is a police procedural murder story. It's Tartan Noir. I hadn't realised when I began reading that this is the fourth outing for DCI Alex Morrow and so I might have missed some of the backstory, but the book still stood up in its own right. As so often in these Scottish detective pieces, the lead detective is an outsider with regard to office politics and has personal connections with the story that start to generate conflicts of interest. The plot itself is a little far fetched and relies on one big event that is revealed late in the piece - but seemed to be pretty obvious right
  24. It is difficult to sustain quality through a collection of short stories and I'm not sure Kirsty Logan has managed it. There is one gem of a story - Una and Coll are Not Friends - that shines far brighter than any other story in the collection. It is gentle, subtle, humorous and human. It has a depth and makes one think about the nature of being an outsider. There are a couple of other interesting stories, particularly the Tiger Palace. Most (but not all) stories have some current of lesbian love. And most seem to have some reference to fairy stories as a genre, although few seem to be readil
  25. A Capital Union is a novel about conflicting loyalties. Told by Agnes, a young Ayrshire girl who has found herself in 1942, under the age of 18, married to Jeff, a University of Edinburgh lecturer. Jeff’s field of study is linguistics – specifically recording Scots dialect. He “found” Agnes whilst recording Ayrshire Scots and whisked her off to his late mother’s tenement in affluent Morningside. Agnes is out of her depth; she is expected to be genteel, refined and able to keep house despite the privations of rationing. She depends heavily on Jeff, whom she barely knows, to guide her in he
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