Recent Book Purchases

Books are still coming into the house faster than I can possibly read them. Even although I don’t work nowadays I still only manage to read at most two books a week, unless I’m on a vintage crime binge and then I can read more. When you consider that most weeks my book ownership is going up by four or so books, you’ll realise that I’m never going to be in a position of having nothing at all to read.

Latest Books

Last week I bought:

The North Wind of Love by Compton Mackenzie
The Casino by Margaret Bonham
The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

I was under the impression that The North Wind of Love was the beginning of Mackenzie’s ‘Four Winds of Love’ series – but it isn’t.
I’ve never read anything by Margaret Kennedy but I know lots of bloggers love her books so I’m hopeful.
I’ve also never read anything by Margaret Bonham but it’s a Persephone so I think it’ll probably be good.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is pure nostalgia. All of my childhood books were given away by my mother when my back was turned, I think my Rebecca book was a cheap paperback, but I couldn’t resist this hardback from 1903. I love its cover and I’ve just realised that it’s a first edition, not that I’m bothered by such things, and it seems to be dirt cheap on the internet anyway.

Have you read any of these books?

Read Scotland 2014

It’s time for a Read Scotland 2014 update, in fact it’s way past time as I’ve just realised that I’ve read 15 Scottish books this year, so I’ve gone beyond Ben Nevis as I knew I would. I don’t know what the next level could be called – do you?

I haven’t been very good at linking to the challenge so here’s what I’ve read so far.

1. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
2. Lanark by Alasdair Gray
3. Rockets Galore by Compton Mackenzie
4. A Double Death on the Black Isle by A.D. Scott
5. The Comforters by Muriel Spark
6. Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
7. The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones
8. The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes
9. The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson
10. The First Book of the McFlannels by Helen W. Pryde
11. The McFlannels See It Through by Helen W. Pryde
12. Sleeping Tiger by Rosamund Pilcher
13. The Clydesiders by Margaret Thomson Davis
14. The Kellys of Kelvingrove by Margaret Thomson Davis
15. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin – which I have yet to blog about but I really enjoyed it.

A few of these authors have been new to me and of those I think Compton Mackenzie has been the most surprising and entertaining, followed closely by Helen W. Pryde, I must get around to tracking down the rest in her series.

The most disappointing has been Secrets of the Sea House which was just not my cup of tea and was full of cultural mistakes, it isn’t authentically Scottish at all.

I haven’t read any Scottish non-fiction at all but I intend to remedy that soon, so stand by (Lorraine in particular) for a non fiction blogpost – when I’ve rounded up the ones I hope to read this year – which is almost half-way through already. How did that happen?!

Rockets Galore by Compton Mackenzie

Rockets Galore was published in 1957 and is set on the fictional Scottish islands of Great and Little Todday, as were his previous books Keep the Home Guard Turning and the better known Whisky Galore, which was of course made into a film.

It is Cold War era and the government has decided that the islands are needed to house the rockets which will supposedly protect the people in Britain by firing at the people in Russia. The islanders have been told that some land will be needed for the plans and some of them will have to move off the islands altogether, as you can imagine, that news doesn’t go down well. In reality both islands will need to be evacuated completely, but the powers that be are keeping quiet about that to begin with.

Later one islander says: Yes they’re going to make a desert of the Western Isles and call it peace.

His friend replies: I think desert will be the last word you’ll be able to apply to the Islands when they’re full of these chaps training for ballistic warfare. But don’t misunderstand me Hugh. I feel just as strongly as you do about this rocket business, but what can we do? If we could trust the Russians … but we can’t. They mean to rule the world, and we and the United States have got to stop them. And by the time they’re ruling what’s left of the world, the Chinese will step in a rule them.

Well that Compton Mackenzie seems to have been quite a seer, as it feels like China is taking over now!

The islanders are being wildly underestimated by their so called betters of course and have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to see the invaders off.

An enjoyable and amusing read.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.

Read Scotland 2014

Have you signed up for Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 Challenge yet? If not then have a wee think about doing it as I’m sure you could read at least 3 or 4 books which would qualify for it without even realising. For instance did you realise that Ian Fleming would fall into the category of Scottish author, and almost all of the children’s classic authors were Scottish or of Scottish descent. Now that Jack has actually retired he is going to do this challenge, his first ever, he should have much more time for reading now, have a look at his post about it here. We will both be doing the Ben Nevis which is 13 books but we’ll end up doing far more than that I’m sure. In fact I think I might manage a purely mythical Jings, crivens and help ma boab category, and if you’ve ever read Oor Wullie you’ll know that those are all words which are used to mean flabbergasted, astonished, for goodness sake! Because I plan to read about 50 books for this challenge.

To begin with I’m reading Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe over the month of January, doing it in four chunks and writing about it each week. Join in with me if you think you’re hard enough! Judith are you still up for it?

At the same time I intend to read Lanark by Alasdair Grey as a respite from Ivanhoe. Lanark was voted the second best Scottish book recently, the first was Irvine Walsh’s Trainspotting but I don’t fancy that one at all. Below is a list of some of the Scottish fiction authors that I’ll definitely be reading during 2014, I’ll be adding more though. Books with a Scottish setting are also eligible for the challenge. Have a look at the Scottish Books Trust for more inspiration.

Iain Banks
William Boyd
John Buchan
Andrew Crumey
O.Douglas
Alasdair Grey
A.L. Kennedy
Dennis Mackail
Compton Mackenzie
Allan Massie
James Oswald
Rosamund Pilcher
James Runcie
A.D. Scott
Walter Scott
Mary Stewart
Jessica Stirling
Josephine Tey
Alison Thirkell
Angela Thirkell

If I read just one by all of these writers then I’ll have bagged Ben Nevis and then some, but I still have my non fiction books to look through and list, it looks like 2014 is going to be a very Scottish (parochial) year for me!

Oh and I’ll be writing about some of the many children’s classics which are suitable for this challenge. You’re never too old for a good children’s book. Remember that you don’t have to have a blog to take part in this challenge.

Thanks for setting this up Peggy Ann.

Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie

This is just the second book by Compton Mackenzie which I’ve read. I started off with Keep the Home Guard Turning and this one is its sequel. World War ll is having more of an impact on the islanders than before. Disaster has struck and there is no whisky to be had anywhere. Previously they had been rationed to one ‘nip’ every other day but now the islands of Little Todday and Great Todday are completely dry and the boat is eagerly awaited, hoping it’ll be loaded with whisky supplies but the islanders are always disappointed. All of the whisky which is being produced is being sent to America to help pay for the war.

Sergeant-major Odd who comes from London/Nottingham has come back from Africa where he had been sent on war business and is determined to marry his Peggy. The few English characters in the book give Mackenzie the chance to have some fun with the different accents, he obviously had a good ear and although it doesn’t appear in this book, I was impressed that in the first one he wrote the Scottish characters saying amn’t I and English ones saying aren’t I, some writers who should know better don’t seem to have noticed the distinction.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the film which was made of this book in 1948 you’ll know that relief for the islanders comes in the shape of the ship the SS Cabinet Minister. When she runs aground on some rocks it isn’t long before the men of the two Toddays come to the rescue and they’re thrilled to learn from the crew that the ship is carrying 50,000 crates of whisky, bound for America.

Well they can’t leave it all to the tender mercies of the sea can they! I could only find a teeny wee bit of the film on You Tube, but it gives you an idea of it.

This book was first published in 1947 and the author does admit that a ship called SS Politician, with a similar cargo did come to grief off the island of Eriskay in 1945, and Mackenzie claims that that is where the similarities end!! This is another humorous read from the author who is better known for his Monarch in the Glen books.

Mackenzie based another of his books on the same islands, it’s called Rockets Galore and I’ll be reading that one next year for Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland 2014 challenge.

Keep the Home Guard Turning by Compton Mackenzie

This book is like Dad’s Army (I love that programme) but instead of the south of England setting we find ourselves on the Scottish islands of Great Todday and Little Todday. The islanders are fierce rivals and even have different religious affiliations with Great Todday being staunchly Protestant and Little Todday Catholic. In earlier days they spent their time stealing each other’s sheep.

World War 2 has broken out and the islanders are living in fear of a German invasion, although some of them think that if Hitler invades then they will be able to improve him with their hospitality in the shape of whisky, which everyone seems to quaff at an amazing rate, ‘just a sensation’ is the usual offer, but a sensation is a very big dram indeed!

This is an amusing read and for me it came to an end too abruptly. I couldn’t find anything about a sequel to this one which was first published in 1943. But amazingly I was browsing in a local bookshop (Burntisland) when I came across Rockets Galore which was first published in 1957 it has the same setting and I now realise that his famous book Whisky Galore was published in 1947 and as that is set on the islands too I should be reading that one next. Whisky Galore was of course made into a very popular film and the TV series Monarch of the Glen was based on one of Compton Mackenzie’s books too.

This is the first book by Meckenzie which I have read but some of his earlier books are available free from Project Gutenberg.