Sometimes you read a novel which catches you unaware – enough that you have to pause, take a breath, and start all over again, taking the time to calibrate to the language and imagery used. More often than not it is a sign of writing which isn’t afraid to experiment and take risks. Such a novel has to convince you that it is right and it’s up to you to adapt your expectations. All of the above applies to Helen McClory’s debut novel Flesh Of The Peach, and it pays back the reader prepared to engage in spades.
It’s a novel about grief and self-loathing in southwest America, and how dealing with those emotions is as difficult and potentially destructive as life gets. Flesh Of The Peach opens in New York where English artist Sarah Browne is left reeling from the end of an affair with the married Kennedy, a woman in whom Sarah had staked unrealistic hopes of happiness, not realising, or perhaps realising all too well, that this was a doomed relationship from the start. For someone who sees herself as a failure it is exactly the sort of liaison which will simply prove that beleif to be true once more. Continue reading
It’s the time for ‘Books Of The Year’ lists and we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection for 2016, while small, is beautifully formed and well worthy of your attention.
These are the books which stood out against a lot of stiff and perhaps better known competition. The list could have been longer but we like to stick to a traditional Top Ten. Consisting mostly of novels, with one remarkable collection of short stories, and one unforgettable musical (auto)biography, these are the books which have left their mark. Here’s what we thought at the time:
Young Soul Rebels – Stuart Cosgrove
Stuart Cosgrove writes as he broadcasts – eloquently, forcefully and at pace, and as such he makes persuasive and forceful arguments. If you have a music fan in your life, then I would suggest this book is the perfect gift. If they are a soul fan, then it is a must. Anyone who has ever pored over liner notes, obsessed over b-sides, searched out limited editions and rarities, or cued hours for tickets or entry will recognise themselves at least in part on the page, no matter what their musical tastes. Stuart Cosgrove is here to remind you that while music may not be a matter of life and death (and there are poignant reminders of that in Young Soul Rebels) it certainly makes the former worth living. Continue reading
For the latest podcast, Ali headed down the Clyde Valley to talk to writer and actor Pauline Lynch. The primary reason was to discuss Pauline’s terrific debut novel, Armadillos, which is out now, and you can read the Scots Whay Hae! review here.
It’s a terrific read and the two talk about it at length. For a debut novel from a Scottish writer it is unusual in being set outside of Scotland, in this case in Texas, a decision which was to prove a wise one when it came to research.
Pauline talks in detail about how Armadillos grew from a single idea to become one of the best books of the year. But don’t take our word for it – it’s now included on the long list for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, so someone must agree.
The two also touch on the pros and cons of university writing courses and how Pauline’s focus moved from acting to writing over the years. She has had a fascinating life, treading the boards and touring the world, as well as being a key part of the cultural phenomenon that is Trainspotting.
It all makes for a really warm and interesting listen, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did recording it.
If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS where there’s a sizeable back catalogue waiting for your pleasure.
You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud…
..or on YouTube:
Oh, and this podcast is brought to you by the fabulous Atkinson-Pryce Books, Biggar’s award winning independent bookshop – they just don’t know it…
*You can listen to P.K. Lynch talking about Armadillos on the Scots Whay Hae! Podcast by clicking here…
In our recent podcast with novelist Iain Maloney we spoke about a writer’s responsibility when tackling certain subjects. In Maloney’s case, his novel The Waves Burn Bright deals with events surrounding the Piper Alpha North Sea Oil Platform tragedy, and he talked about the importance of making sure his research was thorough and his prose unsensational so as to avoid any possible accusations of exploitation or disrespect.
It’s something that James Robertson and Kirstin Innes have also spoken to us about with reference to their novels The Professor Of Truth and Fishnet, books which examine the Lockerbie bombing and the sex industry respectively. Writers have a responsibility to their subject as well as their readers, and with some subjects that responsibility should be taken very seriously indeed. It’s a difficult balancing act to pull off, to tell an engaging story while respecting those who you are wishing to draw attention to, but when a writer gets it right it can be far more affecting than any mere reportage or documentary.
Armadillos is the story of 15-year-old Texan Aggie, who is described as “a ‘sub’ from a ‘sub’ family”, which means she is at the bottom of a food chain where food is scarce to begin with. Literary theorist Antonio Gramsci used the term ‘subaltern’ to refer to those who belonged to groups of people denied power and wealth by the ruling classes. They are those who struggle to have their voices heard, so often cease trying. If you are considered a ‘sub’ within such a group, then in common parlance you are viewed within, and often without, that group as the ‘lowest of the low’. Continue reading