Bookshelf Travelling – 30th November

It’s Bookshelf Travelling time again, this meme was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness but for the moment I’m gathering any related blogposts.

Scottish Books

This week I’m visiting another shelf which is home to Scottish authors, so it’s a mixture of historical, humorous, thriller and romance.

Rosamunde Pilcher was wildly popular in the 1980s and 90s, especially so in Germany for some reason. Her books are mainly set in Scotland or Cornwall, it’s a good long time since I read any but I did enjoy them. She was a local author, living in Fife for most of her life so I often knew the locations which is always a plus for me. Several of her books have been made into films. She also wrote under the name of Jane Fraser, but I haven’t read any of those ones, have you?

Wax Fruit by Guy McCrone is actually a trilogy – Antimacassar City, The Philistines and The Puritans. The setting is Glasgow. I’ve had this book for over a decade, it’s the heftiness of it that has put me off from reading it, there are 613 pages but I see that the print is fairly large so I might get to this one soon. The trilogy sold over a million copies, the books were first published between 1940 and 1947.

Compton Mackenzie was actually born in England and had an English accent but he researched his family tree and was heavily influenced by his Scottish links and regarded the Highlands as his spiritual home. I’ve not read all of the Mackenzie books on this shelf but I loved Whisky Galore, Rockets Galore and Keep the Home Guard Turning. I’ve yet to read Monarch of the Glen and didn’t even see much of the television series which was so popular some years ago. You know, I’ve got a horrible feeling that I’ve already featured part of this shelf before, but some different books!

Here are some other Bookshelf Travellers:
A Son of the Rock
Staircase Wit

Bookshelf Travelling, November 22nd

It’s Bookshelf Travelling time again, this meme was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, but I’m doing it at the moment.

This week my photo is of a shelf in my book/crafting/ironing room which is home to books by Scottish authors beginning with ‘S’ and they’re almost all Stewarts.

'S' Bookshelf, Katrina's books

J.I.M. Stewart is probably better known as Michael Innes the crime fiction writer. The books he writes as Stewart have an Oxford College setting, something which he was familiar with. He wrote a quintet in the 1970s which goes under the name of A Staircase in Surrey but the individual titles are The Gaudy, Young Patullo, Memorial Service, The Madonna of the Astrolabe and Full Term. I really enjoyed these books when they were first published.

Mary Stewart was very popular when her books were first published. I really like her romantic thrillers which are full of suspense. Her books have been reprinted more recently and she has quite a lot of fans nowadays. I loved her Arthurian/Merlin books which were also published in the 1970s – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment. The Wicked Day was published in 1983 and that one is about Mordred.

The very last book on the right hand side of the shelf is an ancient one by Annie S. Swan. She sold masses of books. Apparently by 1898 she had published over 30 books, a lot of them were serialised in magazines originally. There are a few of her books free on Project Gutenberg here but not all of the books are by the Scottish Annie Swan, they’ve been mixed up with a Finnish author with a similar name.

Other Bookshelf Travellers this week are –

A Son of the Rock

Staircase Wit

Six in Six – 2020 edition – My Choices


For the first time I’m participating in Six in Six which is hosted by Jo at The Book Jotter. The idea is that you choose six books that you’ve read in the last six months, from six different categories, click the links if you want to read my thoughts on the books.

Six books by Scottish authors:

1. Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M.C. Beaton
2. The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson
3. A Rope in Case by Lilian Beckwith
4. Still Glides the Stream by D.E. Stevenson
5. My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan
6. The Double Image by Helen MacInnes

Six historical fiction books:

1. Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
2. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
3. Joseph Knight by James Robertson
4. Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
5. Elizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin
6. Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett

Six books in translation:

1. East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen
2. The Little Town Where Time Stood Still by Bohumil Hrabal
3. The Master and Margarita by Mikhael Bulgakov
4. Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada
5. Autumn Quail by Naguib Mahfouz
6. Snow by Orhan Pamuk (still to be reviewed)

Six children’s books:

1. Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
2. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
3. Eight Cousins by L.M. Montgomery
3. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
4. Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
5. From the Mixed- Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
6. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Six vintage crime books:

1. The Blind Side by Patricia Wentworth
2. Hide My Eyes by Margery Allingham
3. The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham
4. The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs
5. Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg
6. Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth

Six by new to me authors:

1. Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
2. The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson
3. Greenery Street by Denis Mackail
4. The Glorious Thing by Christine Orr
5. Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson
6. Autumn Quail by Naguib Mahfouz

I’ve really enjoyed compiling this post and I’ve also learned a lot from it. I hadn’t realised that so far this year I’ve not read much in the way of vintage crime when compared with past years, and my reading of classics has just about fallen off a cliff this year – so far. I’m putting that down to the appearance of Coronavirus/Covid 19 in the world as I’ve been concentrating on reading lighter fiction, especially at the beginning.

Thanks for organising this Jo.

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

For this week’s Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times meme which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness I’ve chosen some much older books.

The photo below is of a couple of my shelves for Scottish books. These ones are all of fairly ancient titles, but ones that I have loved reading in the past and will never get rid of.


I went through a phase of reading J.M. Barrie’s books, it’s probably about 15 or 20 years ago now. Hardly anyone reads his work nowadays, beyond Peter Pan which is such a shame. In his day he was incredibly successful with his novels and his plays were wildly popular in the theatre. I particularly loved his The Little Minister, Tommy and Grizel and Sentimental Tommy.

John Buchan wrote a lot more books than The Thirty Nine Steps, I have just a few of them really. I haven’t read all of these ones yet, but Greenmantle is my favourite so far.

A.J Cronin was a local GP in Dumbarton where I grew up, although at some point he gave that up to concentrate on his very successful writing career – and moved to Switzerland, probably for tax reasons. But he still supported the local football team. Possibly his best known book is The Spanish Gardener which was made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde. It’s well worth watching too.

O. Douglas who was also known as Anna Buchan was John Buchan’s sister. Her books are real comfort reads, a step back to what seemed to be a simpler time, on the surface anyway. Like many Scottish female novelists she often writes about the making of a home and there’s usually a group of children to be loved by someone who isn’t a mother, but becomes a mother figure. One little boy is usually absolutely adored. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a real pity that Anna Buchan never married and had children, but she wrote her own families, which might have been some solace I suppose.

These authors are all well worth reading and Anna Buchan, John Buchan and J.M. Barrie’s books are available on Project Gutenberg, it’s strange that Cronin’s aren’t, but maybe they are still in copyright.

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

It’s the fourth week of Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, you can read about it here.

This week I’m looking at the bookcase which stands on the upstairs hall outside the room that Jack has as a study/office. It’s a tall IKEA one and when we first moved to this modern house we thought we were going to have to get a saw out and chop some of its height off as it wouldn’t fit downstairs. Then I decided to measure the ceiling heights and would you believe it – upstairs ceilings are three inches higher than downstairs – how weird is that?! So we just managed to fit it in sans sawing.

Scottish Books 1

Scottish Books 2

Anyway, this bookcase is home to the many books by modernish Scottish authors. Jack has read all of these but I have such a lot of catching up to do. I’ve really only read the Christopher Brookmyres, a couple by Margaret Elphinstone and the William McIlvanneys. Click the photos to see them enlarged.

Voyageurs by Margaret Elphinstone appeals to me, the blurb says: In the early 1800s, Rachel Greenhow, a young Quaker goes missing in the Canadian Wilderness. Unable to accept the disappearance, her brother Mark leaves his farm in England, determined to bring his sister home. It sounds like a bit of an adventure.

Hame by Annalena McAfee is about a woman who leaves New York after the breakdown of a relationship and moves with her 9 year old daughter to a remote Scottish island. She has been commisioned to write the biography of a cantankerous old Scottish poet who has an international reputation. It’s described as a dazzling kaleidoscpe of a novel.

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan. The blurb on the back says: It’s not easy being Iggy Pop in Airdrie. The Year is 1983 and Memorial Device are the greatest band that ever existed. It’s described as being intoxicating and brilliant, compelling, funny and often profound. It might be a bit niche but I intend to give it ago soonish. Jack thinks it is brilliant, you can read his thoughts on it here.

 This Is Memorial Device cover
 Voyageurs  cover

 Hame cover

Scottish Authors and Asterix and the Pechts

I still haven’t been able to sort all of my books out after our recent mammoth down-sizing house move, actually it’s not so recent, we moved on April 4th – things move slowly around here nowadays. Jack has housed his large SF collection in bookcases in the garage (does anyone ever put a vehicle in their garage?) and I’m waiting on a summerhouse to be delivered, it sounds fancy but is basically a large sturdy garden shed with more glass than usual, so it should be fine for books. I’ve just heard that it will be here next Wednesday which is great, and even better is the fact that we don’t have to build it, that’s included in the price so some guys will be putting it up, I can’t wait.

Anyway, we have managed to find homes for plenty of books in the new house too and we have a Scottish authors section. I must admit that these shelves are really Jack’s books, my Scottish books are not so well organised. Anyway, he has read most of these books but I haven’t, so I intend to read at least some of them for the Read Scotland 2014 challenge, I think I’ve read 16 Scottish books so far.

My Scottish Bookshelf

Above is a photo of some of the books which I want to read, I think you can enlarge it if you click on it. In particular the ones by A.L Kennedy (see below) as I haven’t read any of hers but I want to read the Alan Massie Arthurian trilogy too.

Books by A L Kennedy

Number 16 was a wee bit of a cheat really as it was Asterix and the Pechts, a very slim volume. Did you ever read the Asterix books when you were wee? I didn’t read as many as I would have liked because back in the dim distant days when kids were allowed to wander around on their own, I used to go to the library and at that time you were only allowed to take two books out at a time, and if I borrowed an Asterix or Tin Tin book I got more than a bit of a hard stare from my mother when I got home.

She expected me to bring back real books from the library. Strangely she didn’t mind at all when my older brother borrowed Tin Tin and Asterix books, yet another sign of her favouritism?! At least that meant that I could get to read them too.

Anyway the English version of the Asterix book is called Asterix and the Picts. I read Asterix and the Pechts which has been translated into Scots, it’s a good laugh. You can read about it here. And you can see more images from it here.

Ian Jack Protests Too Much

For some reason I found myself reading Ian Jack’s column in the Guardian on Saturday which you can read here if you’re interested. It’s a bit of a long ramble about Anglophilia/phobia and Scottish independence amongst other things.

I have to say that I do like England and have lots of English friends and family, but I really can’t stand the sort of Scots who go down to England and have the attitude that they have somehow got one up on the rest of us who weren’t successful enough to get ourselves to the south. We tried it and didnae like it – so we took oorselves aff hame again.

Not for the first time I wondered to myself why Ian Jack is given space in the Guardian at all but this article seemed to be even more silly than usual. I think he feels guilty for being a Scot living in England, I can’t see why else he would write about famous Scots who found themselves living/dying in England. You don’t have to be brilliant to realise that lots of Scots have had to go to England at some point for work or career reasons. Most of us do want to get back home as soon as we can, especially if we’ve had the misfortune to pitch up in the very over-crowded south-east.

Poor R.L. Stevenson was in Bournemouth at one point apparently and Lewis Grassic Gibbon died in Welwyn Garden City (I managed to survive it – just!) It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Ian Jack that doctors routinely told their patients to move to a warmer climate when they had poor health, generally TB/consumption. The doctors knew that there was nothing they could do for them. If they were wealthy they took themselves off to Italy and died a wee bit slower than they would have in Scotland’s colder climate. Otherwise they went to the south of England where the weather was marginally better in the summer. However the worst two winters which I have lived through were way down south in Essex.

R.L. Stevenson who had been sickly even as a child, went all over the place trying to prolong his life in hot climates, but to no avail. John Buchan lived in Oxfordshire (shock horror) he had graduated from Oxford University but as a career diplomat he spent most of his life in Canada and became the Governor General there, he was steeped in all things Scottish as far as I can see.

But it was when Ian Jack mentions that Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows and describes it as “one of greatest Anglophile novels” – I thought to myself Ian Jack has lost it completely!

Kenneth Grahame had an idyllic childhood with his siblings in rural Perthshire, until the death of their mother. It wasn’t long after that shock that they were all moved down to England, where Kenneth was badly bullied at school because of his Scottish accent. I know that people who should know better point to a stretch of river and say that it is where Kenneth Grahame set the book. In reality the setting was his childhood, the characters his siblings and yes THE WEASELS were the English. They were the people who had pushed him around as a child – and he was getting his own back. It suited him at that very class conscious time to see the good guys – Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger as English gentlemen and the weasels as common riff-raff, and no doubt for commercial reasons that was the right thing to do because the book wouldn’t have been published otherwise. Perhaps Ian Jack should read some books on children’s literature of the early 20th century.

By the way – the people I know who are the most ardent supporters
of Scottish independence just happen to come from Surrey and Oregon, but they live in Scotland so they’ll be voting, which is just as it should be. I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the ex-pat Scots many of whom apparently want a vote when the time comes. Whoever heard of people having a vote in a country they don’t live in!