BOOKMARK November 2021 Book recommendations

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From November, BOOKMARK member, Kate Davies, will be selecting our Books of the Month. As owner of Blairgowrie's bookshop, Adventure into Books, Kate gets a good view of new books that are coming out soon, as well as the books that people are enjoying with their book groups. If you have any recommendations to share, Kate would love to hear from you – just email kate.davies@adventureintobooks.co.uk. The bookshop will normally have the Book of the Month books in stock or can quickly order them for you.

What a festival! Entertaining, informative and uplifting. A huge well done to all the organisers and authors.

Now we’ve caught our breath a little, we have some more book suggestions for you, starting with Of Stone and Sky by Merryn Glover, winner of the BOOKMARK 2021 Book of the Year Award. This gripping story is set in a small Cairngorm community where shepherd Colvin Munro has disappeared, leaving behind him a trail of 12 possessions. Unsettling revelations from the past upset the present but new ideas and initiatives either threaten the future of the land and its residents or provide exciting opportunities. Full of strong, singular characters, it’s a story of family and choices. 

We’re looking forward to welcoming Merryn to next year’s book festival, but in case you’re suffering festival-withdrawal symptoms, fear not. On Saturday 6th November, BOOKMARK is hosting a talk about Beyond the Swelkie, guided by co-editor Jim Mackintosh and poet Beth McDonough. The book offers a stunning new collection of poems and essays inspired by the Orkney poet and writer George Mackay Brown, whose centenary is celebrated this year.  

Also published this year is a new collection of George Mackay Brown’s poems, Carve the Runes, selected and introduced by Kathleen Jamie. Some of the poems tell a story, some are portraits of local characters and some simply capture and convey fleeting moments in time. To whet your appetite, the opening verse from The Old Women offers a timely pre-Christmas warning against over-imbibing:

“Go sad or sweet or riotous with beer
Past the old women gossiping by the hour,
They’ll fix on you from every close and pier
An acid look to make your veins run sour.”

George Mackay Brown was also a prolific novelist. I started with, and loved, Beside the Ocean of Time. Set in on the remote, harsh and fictitious Orcadian island of Norday, it interweaves the comings and goings of the island characters in the run up to the Second World War, with the daydream adventures of Thorfinn Ragnerson. Thorfinn is wonderfully (hopelessly?) described in the first line of the book: “Of all the lazy useless boys who ever went to Norday school, the laziest and most useless was Thorfinn Ragnarson.” With that opening line, I had to read more. It didn’t disappoint.

New out
This month’s selections include two love stories, each very different in their setting, style and scope. The first is A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery. Like her quirky romance The Elegance of the Hedgehog, A Single Rose explores the progression of love and loss. However, in this story, the journey takes place in Japan and is mapped out through the gardens of Kyoto, against a backdrop of flower lore and Japanese fables. With complex and intriguing characters, the story both pulls the reader forward and – as with any good garden – also gives cause to linger. Truly delightful.

The second is Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks. You don’t have to have read the first book in this trilogy (Human Traces) to enjoy the second instalment – in fact, I couldn’t get into the first book and couldn’t put down the second. Set mainly in Austria, Snow Country charts the lives of the aspiring journalist, Anton, and the cosseted Lena, through war and upheaval, personal loss and mutual discovery. Paths cross and recross; hope flickers, falters, revives.

We’re stepping into the world of non-fiction with this final recommendation for the month, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia, which is now out in paperback. Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020, this is a huge book with a huge scope, exploring the geographies of our seas and oceans and the part they have played in human history, trade and culture. Our interactions with the oceans abound with stories of daring-do, quests for knowledge, and the search for land and resources. This book takes a bit of time to read but will transport and inform.

I hope you enjoy these selections. If you have any suggestions you would like to share, please do let me know.

Kate 


All books are available from Waterstones in Perth and Adventure Into Books in Blairgowrie.


Of Stone and Sky
Of Stone and Sky by Merryn Glover
(Polygon, 2021)
Fiction

Of Stone and Sky by Merryn Glover, winner of the BOOKMARK 2021 Book of the Year Award. This gripping story is set in a small Cairngorm community where shepherd Colvin Munro has disappeared, leaving behind him a trail of 12 possessions. Unsettling revelations from the past upset the present but new ideas and initiatives either threaten the future of the land and its residents or provide exciting opportunities. Full of strong, singular characters, it’s a story of family and choices.

Beyond the Swelkie
Beyond the Swelkie by George Mackay Brown
(Tippermuir Books, 2020)
Poetry

Beyond the Swelkie, guided by co-editors Jim Mackintosh and Paul Philippou, and poet Beth McDonough. The book offers a stunning new collection of poems and essays inspired by the Orkney poet and writer George Mackay Brown, whose centenary is celebrated this year.

Carve the Runes
Carve the Runes by Kathleen Jamie
(Birlinn, 2021)
Poetry

Carve the Runes, selected and introduced by Kathleen Jamie. Some of the poems tell a story, some are portraits of local characters and some simply capture and convey fleeting moments in time. To whet your appetite, the opening verse from The Old Women offers a timely pre-Christmas warning against over-imbibing: “Go sad or sweet or riotous with beer Past the old women gossiping by the hour, They’ll fix on you from every close and pier An acid look to make your veins run sour.”

Beside the Ocean of Time
Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown
(HarperCollins, 1995)
Fiction

Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown. Set in on the remote, harsh and fictitious Orcadian island of Norday, it interweaves the comings and goings of the island characters in the run up to the Second World War, with the daydream adventures of Thorfinn Ragnerson. Thorfinn is wonderfully (hopelessly?) described in the first line of the book: “Of all the lazy useless boys who ever went to Norday school, the laziest and most useless was Thorfinn Ragnarson.” With that opening line, I had to read more. It didn’t disappoint.

A Single Rose
A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery
(Gallic Books, 2021)
Non-Fiction

A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery. Like her quirky romance The Elegance of the Hedgehog, A Single Rose explores the progression of love and loss. However, in this story, the journey takes place in Japan and is mapped out through the gardens of Kyoto, against a backdrop of flower lore and Japanese fables. With complex and intriguing characters, the story both pulls the reader forward and – as with any good garden – also gives cause to linger. Truly delightful.

Snow Country
Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks
(Hutchison , 2021)
Fiction

Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks. Set mainly in Austria, Snow Country charts the lives of the aspiring journalist, Anton, and the cosseted Lena, through war and upheaval, personal loss and mutual discovery. Paths cross and recross; hope flickers, falters, revives.

The Boundless Sea:  A Human History of the Oceans
The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia
(Penguin, 2020)
Non-Fiction

The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia, which is now out in paperback. Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020, this is a huge book with a huge scope, exploring the geographies of our seas and oceans and the part they have played in human history, trade and culture. Our interactions with the oceans abound with stories of daring-do, quests for knowledge, and the search for land and resources. This book takes a bit of time to read but will transport and inform.


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