Word Up!: Scots Whay Hae’s Best Books Of 2015…

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You may have had your fill already of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists already, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae’s selection is small, beautifully formed and well worthy of your attention.

These are the books which stood out against a lot of stiff competition in 2015. It could have been longer but we decided to stick to the traditional Top Ten. Consisting mostly of novels ,with a couple of music biographies thrown in, these books will take you to North Korea, Detroit, the Firth of Forth, the 17th century and Millport. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the breadth of artistic and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:

512+dd1NznL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_A Book Of Death And Fish – Ian Stephen

There is a geographically thorough representation of Scotland as well as a historic and cultural one as we are taken from Shetland to the Solway Firth, West Coast to East Coast, and all around the coast as well. The land and the sea; the one constantly affecting the other, and this relationship comes to define Peter MacAulay’s life… This is an epic novel in more ways than one, but then this is the story of a man from cradle to grave and as such it deserves due consideration. Some people may be put off by the scale, but the writing is concise, accessible and memorable. Give it your time and you will not regret it for one moment. You may well think back on your own life in a different manner as a result.

916FbzrWB6LRise – Karen Campbell

Campbell is a writer who always manages to wrong foot you, seemingly for fun, and the results are never less than thrilling. She builds tension, often unbearably, as lies are threatened to be uncovered, and, even worse, so is the truth. All of her characters are fully developed and all-too believable, and this makes you take closer notice than you may have done otherwise as the various dilemmas unfold. You can not be a passive reader of a Karen Campbell novel. She refuses to let you. Rise is steeped in Scottish culture, but makes no big deal about it, just as it should be. Primarily it is a novel which is thought-provoking and involving, and never less than thoroughly entertaining. Spread the word; Karen Campbell has quietly become one of Scotland’s very best writers, and deserves to be considered as such. Consider it done.

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So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish : A Review Of Ian Stephen’s A Book Of Death And Fish…

When Scots Whay Hae! reviewed James Robertson’s And The Land Lay Still it was noted that Scotland hadn’t produced enough epic literature over the last 100 years. While the hangover from an overdose of Walter Scott in previous centuries may have had something to do with it, there is no doubt that in recent, and not so recent, times Scottish writers have tended to deal with the individual and the local, usually over a short period of time, rather than look at the bigger picture.

With his recent novel, A Book Of Death And Fish, Ian Stephen has managed to combine these two approaches to produce an epic tale which looks at an ever-changing Scotland from an individual’s point of view.  The story which unfolds is that of Peter MacAulay as he settles down to write his will and testament, and finds himself looking back on people and places he has known and how they have influenced his life.

The title is an arresting one, and not as disingenuous as you may believe, or as unambitious as you may fear, as although there have been plenty of both fish and death in Peter’s life, there’s a lot more to consider. His has been one rich in experience, (either his own, or that of others), and the at times immodest telling suggests a man certain of his pla(i)ce, (ahem!). What you get is a depiction of a changing Scotland, and particularly the  highlands and islands, as Peter’s story unfolds, and much of the novel’s success is in the telling; specifically the writer’s use of language and his wonderfully precise way with detail. Continue reading