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
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.

East Fortune by James Runcie

East Fortune was first published in 2009 and it’s just the second one by James Runcie which I’ve read. I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. In fact I almost gave up reading it very early on because it begins with an unavoidable tragedy and I thought to myself – ‘Do I really want to be reading a possible doomfest of a book just before Christmas?’ Anyway I persevered and it wan’t until I was about two thirds of the way through the book that I really began to enjoy it.

The blurb on the front says ‘This gripping novel has only one major flaw – it was far too short – I wanted at least another 200 pages of these people and their lives.’ VICTORIA HISLOP

In a way I sort of agree with that statement but mainly because for me the whole thing pepped up towards the end. This would qualify for Peggy’s Read Scotland 2014 challenge as the setting is Scotland and Runcie now lives in Edinburgh.

It’s the story of the three Henderson brothers, now middle aged but still suffering from sibling rivalry, family expectations and disappointments. East Fortune is not far from Edinburgh and it’s where their family home is, when they return for their annual summer get together the usual tensions turn up too, made worse by the obvious frailty of their elderly parents.

I have to say that the author has done a good job of depicting middle aged family life, but it isn’t exactly uplifting, and if you’ve already been there then it isn’t something which you really want to spend your time reading about. I will read more by this author though as I think he is a good writer, it’s just the subject matter of this one which didn’t appeal to me so much.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers cover

This is the first book by James Runcie which I have read. The setting is 1953, Cambridge, where Sidney Chambers, a 32 year old bachelor and Church of England canon becomes involved in helping the police with various investigations.

It’s impossible to read something like this without being reminded of the Father Brown mysteries. I do know Grantchester and Cambridge and I always like it when I can picture all the locations, but I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would partly because it doesn’t read at all like a novel, but is more like a collection of novellas or long short stories which are loosely linked, if you see what I mean.

The Grantchester mysteries, which is what this series is called, apparently run from 1953 to 1981 or in other words from the Queen’s coronation to Charles and Diana’s wedding which is an idea that I like so I will read the next in the series in the hope that I enjoy it more, and to find out if Sidney becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury.

James Runcie is the son of the late Robert Runcie, who was Archbishop of Canterbury and was installed in 1980, it occurred to me that James has taken Robert as a template for the character of Sidney Chambers. They both have the same World War II record of being in the Scots Guards and being war heroes and winning the Military Cross. I suppose it’s a way of keeping his father alive, well that’s what it seems like to me.