Read Scotland 2018 discussion

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Mary Queen of Scots: 26-30+ > Ellen's Books

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message 1: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
I thought I'd give this level a shot and see how I go, especially as John and Mel have already signed up for this level... I think an extra big bag will be needed for my trips to the library!


message 2: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments Good luck. A wheeled trolley may help ;)


message 3: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Haha - that’ll do it!


message 4: by Ellen (last edited Jan 10, 2018 02:56AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
1. The Flight of Gemma Hardy The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey by Margot Livesey

I wanted to like it more than I did - I picked it up purely because it was set in Scotland and my library had recently read it for book club (I'm not in this book club, but they normally have good taste!)

The book started off well, I enjoyed the childhood scenes, but it quickly grew disappointing and even laughable. I was slow on the uptake that this was a 1960's Scottish take on the classic Jane Eyre. At the beginning I was happily noting the similarities (orphan girl living in horrible Aunts house/horrible cousin smashing book over heroine's head/lovable best friend dying in gothic nightmare school) and then looked it up on Goodreads to confirm it.

It started to go downhill when Gemma grew up and became increasingly unlikeable. Not a good Jane stand-in at all. I actually felt guilty for a bit, she was an orphan after all. But no, by the end she was so inconsiderate, her actions unjustifiable and a bit shocking, all semblance of her Jane Eyre personality came to an end. The plot was also weak at times and often unbelievable, but not in a fun, quirky way. I usually love unbelievable.

I gave it three stars but should it be two? I'm feeling grumpier by the minute and it seems increasingly ludicrous the more I think about it! (The reason for the flight from the Rochester still confuses me and was a huge anti climax.) The only upside is reading the hilariously irate and sarcastic Goodreads reviews from people who felt the same. However, others naturally loved it. I personally wouldn't recommend it, but suggest we stick with the inimitable original classic.


message 5: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
I should add The Flight of Gemma Hardy is partly set in Orkney so it remains 3 stars for that nugget of good taste ;)


message 6: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments What a shame, on to brighter things :)


ReadingScotland (heatherlefebvre) I agree....I put a lot of thought into why I didn't like the book too. I actually found much of it boring. It's a shame because the idea of a Scottish setting for a re-write was good. I should know though, I've only ever read one re-write that I liked (Emma by Val McDermid).


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
2. Natural Causes by James Oswald
Natural Causes (Inspector McLean, #1) by James Oswald

I do love a Scottish murder and this didn't disappoint. It follows a few intriguing cases (just on the cusp of my squeamishness) that kept me kept me guessing and turning pages. I liked the characters - one even shares his namesake with Stuart MacBride - and the pace of the plot. It's set in Edinburgh but didn't feel overly Scottish, the focus was on the mysteries and people involved. As for the end, what a twist to the tale! A brave move.

4 stars, I think. I'd like to read more of his books, even under a different genre. Would recommend if you fancy Ian Rankin with a twist :)


message 9: by Ellen (last edited Jan 22, 2018 08:52AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetland series after loving the first one last year. White Nights (no. 2) was just as enjoyable as the first: believable characters with big histories, and an intricate mystery behind it all. She also captured the 'everyone knows everyone' vibe that after nine years I still can't keep up with!

Even though Shetland is the enemy land to my Orkney ;) I do feel pride reading about Scottish (Northern) Island life that is home. The title White Nights refers to (what Ann Cleeves obviously found fascinating) the Simmer Dim where in summer it never properly gets dark. Shetland will be slightly lighter than us, but still it's common to see folk here reading the paper outside at 11pm in the strange soft light. I was reminded how much I love it, that bluish twilight at midnight, especially now that's its darkening at half 3pm. It also made me think I should try visit Shetland sometime, but I'm not going on that ruddy ferry for six hours!

5 stars for me, but I'm biased. Would recommend Raven Black first as some characters do have histories and relationships continued from the first book.


message 10: by John (new)

John R Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetland series after loving the first one las..."


Ellen, go overnight on the ferry and take a cabin. Fall asleep in Kirkwall and wake up in Lerwick - its ideal. Shetland is definitely worth a visit, but its not a patch on Orkney.


message 11: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
John wrote: "Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetland series after loving the..."


You've made my day! Shetland definitely on the To Do list, overnight ferry sounds better! Still, my heart's in Orkney :)


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan Wright | 39 comments Ellen wrote: "John wrote: "Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetland series aft..."


Love the Shetland series but have never managed to visit the islands yet. Did get to Orkney for a long weekend while at uni. We left Aberdeen on Halloween night and drove up to Scrabster to get the 1st ferry. Stayed in a collection of holiday chalets that were pretty much closed for the season and deserted apart from us. Will never forget the wonderful late autumn sunsets on Scapa Beach, the light was just amazing. Will have to go back one day.


message 13: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Ellen wrote: "John wrote: "Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetl..."


Do visit, Susan! As you say, in all seasons, the light is magnificent. Do you live in Scotland?

I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of her series - it's been a while since I've really got stuck in to a good series of books.


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan Wright | 39 comments Ellen wrote: "Susan wrote: "Ellen wrote: "John wrote: "Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann..."


I do live in Scotland but right at the other end, I'm in Dumfries


message 15: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Susan wrote: "Ellen wrote: "John wrote: "Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second an..."


I've been around there, years ago, it was a bonnie place :)


message 16: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
4. Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Scottish language and dialect. The book's inspiration and characters come from the Scottish ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea and follows the life of a witness and key player of the tragic romance. Despite this, I didn't find the book maudlin or depressive, which I was a touch worried about. It's set in medieval Scotland - with 'James Sax' (James VI) and the 'Auld Hag' (Elizabeth I) - a period I love but know very little about from a Scottish point of view. I enjoyed the book's interesting characters, rich settings and chaotic politics of a bloody, hectic era in the Borders.

5 stars for the language alone. (It even has a dictionary at the back.) A few of my favourite words were 'stushie', 'glisk', 'wabbit' and after the character had ridden a horse for too long: 'arse-nibbit'!


message 17: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Byrne (katarina66) | 11 comments Ellen wrote: "3. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
White Nights (Shetland Island, #2) by Ann Cleeves

I treated myself to the second and third of Ann Cleeves Shetland series after loving the first one las..."


I read them all. I loved the idea of the 'White nights' as, living in the north of Scotland myself, we have very short nights in summer. Shetand is so much further to the north though. I read all her books, and watch the tv series. Enjoy them all.
I was born on the Island of Stroma myself, so maybe that's why I love books set on islands!


message 18: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
5. In My End is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots by James A. MacKay
In My End is My Beginning A Life of Mary Queen of Scots by James A. MacKay

This was our first group read and I really enjoyed learning more about Mary Queen of Scots. My preconceptions were embarrassingly ignorant and from an English perspective. I've grown fond of Mary, and find her life and character interesting and much misunderstood. I thought the book tried to be objective and made an effort to be unbiased which I appreciated.

The book was very factual and not given to descriptive text. It took a while to adjust my brain to fact after fact. There's a lot of information to take in quickly, and I admit to getting lost with the ever changing feuds and vendettas of lords, earls etc.

Predictably for me, my interest peaked at the murder of Lord Darnley. (I had no idea how bizarre it was - a real life medieval Agatha Christie type affair.) Unpredictably, I found the description and little details of Mary's execution very upsetting. It was a jolt to remember this poor woman really did die in such a harrowing way.

I still love Elizabeth I, but as I said in the group thread, I think it's entirely possible to love both Queens for the strong, intelligent and fascinating women they are.


message 19: by Ellen (last edited Mar 10, 2018 10:57AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
6. Joseph Knight by James Robertson
Joseph Knight by James Robertson

I've had to take the book back to library (was overdue, bad Ellen!) so relying on memory on a quite complicated story.

I love James Robertson as an author, so my expectations were high. Predictably, I loved it but for much different reasons. It was historical fiction (a genre I adore) and therefore very different to his usual quirky and sometimes surreal style.

The book was highly detailed with the characters lives woven in and out of not just each other but also between different years and timescales. We witnessed a moment of Culloden, various years of the horrors of slave plantations, and a sleepier post-Jacobite Scotland. Jospeh Knight - a slave brought to Scotland who sought freedom on Scottish soil - is almost a ghost-like hero throughout the book. Little glimpses of him are seen through opinions and memories, but mostly he is remembered for the effect of his momentous lawsuit that shook the foundations of the Scottish slave industry. (I read somewhere that this was based on a true story and I certainly hope it is!) Some of the conversations surrounded slavery and said treatment of slaves was hard to read and made me shiver and squirm. Very cleverly done, written from the perspective of the plantation owners and lawyers, the white people justifying their horrific practices.

I realise I could go on and on... A good heartfelt book with serious undertones and delightfully Scottish for this challenge.


message 20: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
7. A Cool Head by Ian Rankin
A Cool Head by Ian Rankin

A very quick read, a mini book I enjoyed one evening. Quite easy but engaging - I enjoyed the character 'Gravy' and felt protective of him when he unwittingly was plunged into a gritty Glasgow underworld.


message 21: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments Just found Joseph Knight in the library, I am reading a book each month this year (non-fiction mainly) about what it means to be black or brown in the UK, so far I have read Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch, Black and British by David Olusoga and Why I am no longer talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. So any historical fiction that compliments this is fantastic. So thank you


message 22: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Melanie wrote: "Just found Joseph Knight in the library, I am reading a book each month this year (non-fiction mainly) about what it means to be black or brown in the UK, so far I have read Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsc..."

That's an interesting idea, Melanie, I think you'll enjoy Joseph Knight and the issues it raises. I thought it had a good story on top too. The plantation anecdotes are hard to hear - I'd heard some of the horror stories before - it makes me shudder and feel ashamed about my country's history. I've heard Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race is meant to be brilliant. Good luck with your challenge :)


message 23: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
8. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

After seeing it winning Goodreads Choice Awards last year and hearing lots of hype I nominated this book for our second group read. It was a tad different to what I expected but in a very good way.

I completely fell in love with Eleanor and her battle with loneliness. At times she reminded of myself, both in her her actions, and her issues. At times it felt very lifelike to me even though her problems arise from completely different circumstances from my own. For example, I am marked as different from other people; not from burn scars on my face like Eleanor, but from my wheelchair I sometimes use or from looking terribly ill all the time. I have a chronic illness and this effects my looks, my actions, my confidence, my social life. As I say, different but the same. I was egging her on all the way, and inwardly cringing, crying, laughing and smiling.

My only disappointment was it didn't feel very Scottish and could have been set anywhere. I would have loved a present day Glasgow brought to life a bit more, especially as this was for our Read Scotland group.

Not usually my chosen genre of book but will definitely look out for this author in the future. Do read it!


message 24: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
9. The Magicians of Scotland by Ron Butlin
The Magicians of Scotland by Ron Butlin

Contemporary Scottish poetry by Ron Butlin with poems with titles such as Wee Referendum Burd. Bit out there at times, a touch political, but quite fun to read with arty inky illustrations. Mostly written in English with a few in Scots, I did enjoy the Orkney poem about 5,000 year old village of Skara Brae being more substantial than Ikea furniture!


message 25: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
10. Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnott
Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnott

My first Scottish Teen Fiction book - maybe for early to middle teenagers - 13-15? Not sure, trying to think back when I was that age, so easy to forget! Definitely not Young Adult I would have thought but I could be out of touch!

Not my favourite Kids/Teen book, bit predictable but ok. There was one gruesome element which took me by surprise but quite mild witchy stuff overall. It is set in Scotland with a touch of Scots history so good for this challenge.


message 26: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
11. Sacrifice by Sharon J. Bolton
Sacrifice by Sharon J. Bolton

What to say about this book? Believable? Not in the slightest! But quite a fun, thrilling romp. Set on Shetland with murder and folklore (two of my favourite reading topics) - what's not to love? Well, the squeamishness for one thing. Ew. I've read another one of Bolton's books that was much more gory but I still flinched.

I've never been to Shetland (quite advisable according to this book) but she seems to describe it quite well in a eerie, chilling sort of way. The murder side and investigation are all very detailed; lots of forensics and jam-packed with medical expertise.

Remembering this is fiction, I had to let go of one or two things she said about runes. My friend is an expert runologist and I was cringing on her behalf. I think Bolton researched tarot runes, not the Norse alphabet, and she seemed only aware of a select few symbols (I think there are at least four official types of Futhark.) But I let it go, because I know nothing about decomposing bodies or obstetrics and she certainly had done her research there.

As for the plot and ending, it's so out there it's orbiting the moon...


message 27: by Jack (new)

Jack Deighton | 52 comments Ellen wrote: "4. Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Scottish language and dialect...."


This is a fantastic book which I read 3 years ago. (See https://jackdeighton.co.uk/2015/08/18...)
Houghmagandie is the best Scottish word in the book. The Glossary gives its meaning as sexual shenanigans but that fails to recognise its connotations of exuberance.


message 28: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "4. Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Scottish languag..."


I loved every bit of this novel, glad someone else appreciated it too. Great in depth review - houghmagandie is indeed a splendid word! All the dialect was wonderful, I would try bring more of it back into modern language but think it would be ruined by my English tongue!


message 29: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkiivie) | 22 comments Ellen wrote: "Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "4. Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Sco..."


With both of your comments I think I will pick this one up. I noticed it's 4.5 rating on Amazon. Thanks!


message 30: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Nikki wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "4. Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and..."


Go for it, Nikki :)


message 31: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
12. Witch and Other Stories by George Mackay Brown
Witch and Other Stories by George Mackay Brown

I've only ever read GMB's poetry and, while it took me a while to get used to at first, I have grown to love it. I've been meaning to read more of his other works but was unsure where to begin. In the library, looking at a big collection of his books, the word 'witch' caught my attention. Orkney has a big and very dark history of witches, both in folklore and in the court manuscripts I've read in the library's archive. I wondered what GMB would make of it - he painted quite a harrowing ordeal, obviously gleaned from those same manuscripts.

I enjoyed this collection of short stories set in Orkney past. His simplistic style of writing is deceptive - it may not be overly descriptive but it speaks straight to your heart. We followed snippets of life from Vikings to witches, crofters to lairds. I will definitely be reading more of this famous Orcadian.


message 32: by Ellen (last edited Apr 21, 2018 09:00AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
13. Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
Red Bones (Shetland Island, #3) by Ann Cleeves

While I really enjoyed the first two of the series, I seemed to stall on this one. Found it a bit slow and hard to get through, unsure why. I didn't guess 'whodunnit' because I realised I was not running through suspects or trying to guess the plot, I was just trying to get to the end! Saying that, I was quite moved and discomforted when one character died, even though I was impatient for more murder/s. Going on my enjoyment of the other two books, I'll carry on with the series and hope this was a blip for me.

Footnote: It kept mentioning the island's folklore 'trows' (little troll like Faeries also found in Orkney) so I'll give it a bonus point for that. If a real trow had featured in the story it would be 5 stars, though that's not really her genre nor would it make any sense. Still, one can always randomly hope. :)


message 33: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments haha, I just imagine Cleeves adding a real "trow" into the story and the outrage that would cause with her readership. "The murder was committed by a trow."


message 34: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Melanie wrote: "haha, I just imagine Cleeves adding a real "trow" into the story and the outrage that would cause with her readership. "The murder was committed by a trow.""

There would be outrage but I would be estastic!


message 35: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
14. The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet

The follow up to The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau did not disappoint! Graeme Macrae Burnet is fast becoming one of my favourite authors with his subtle darkness and psychological stories. Set in a plain, sleepy town in France, this book and its narrative feels very different to His Bloody Project. Apparently, the books’ style takes their nuances from the Maigret books (haven’t read any of those) and they’re wonderfully French in an unassuming way. His characters are rarely likeable, and always troubled, but somehow you feel compelled to read and learn every little detail about them. The book is quite short, but slow moving, and yet he crams in a lot of atmosphere and stories within stories.

Love this little series - I would personally recommend reading the books in order, but this one would definitely work as a stand alone book. I was also quite excited to see the hint of a third book so looking forward to that...

If you’ve read it or want to read it, share your thoughts here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 36: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
15. The Blackhouse Peter May
The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1) by Peter May

This was a reread, and even though I planned to quickly skim read it to refresh my memory, I’m terrible at it and pretty much ended up reading it properly.

I think what I love most about the book are the two narratives. I was drawn most to the childhood recollections and thought it was clever how these past life stories gave hints and clues to the current investigation. Peter May is also skilled at describing the landscape and island life and the book has a very strong sense of place. The characters are believable and all with their faults and secrets, there a lots of extra life stories woven into the main plot. The ending is perhaps a little far fetched but I was up for it and it certainly added drama to slow-paced Hebridean life!

And the Gaelic names. Adored them.

Now currently on the second book of this trilogy, The Lewis Man, and am very happy the writing style follows the theme of different narratives. I was worried how he would work that in and I’m enjoying it so far...


message 37: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
16. The Travelling Companion by Ian Rankin
The Travelling Companion by Ian Rankin

Read this mini novel by Ian Rankin that has intrigued me no end! A conspiracy theory based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - where there was an earlier, and more shocking, manuscript called The Travelling Companion that was supposed to be destroyed. Could there be any nugget of truth in this? Either way it’s a fantastic wee read. Would love to research it a bit more, and definitely has reaffirmed my need to read the Jekyll and Hyde classic.

Also, this edition of little book itself is very bonnie.


message 38: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 87 comments Ellen wrote: "15. The Blackhouse Peter May
The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1) by Peter May

This was a reread, and even though I planned to quickly skim read it to refresh my memory, I’m ter..."

I so enjoyed meeting this new author(to me) through this trilogy. My favorite is The Lewis Man.


message 39: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Ellen wrote: "Ellen wrote: "15. The Blackhouse Peter May
The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1) by Peter May

This was a reread, and even though I planned to quickly skim read it to refresh my m..."


I’m about a third of the way through and fascinated by the bog body science! Would it be weird to google them!? Bit macabre but so interesting :)


message 40: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
17. The Lewis Man by Peter May
The Lewis Man (The Lewis Trilogy, #2) by Peter May

A good second book to the Lewis Trilogy - it definitely reads as a series, and I would say reading the first one, The Blackhouse, is very important to understanding the characters in the second. Again I was fascinated by the Hebridean culture, Gaelic, and descriptions of the islands. And I felt just a tiny bit daft for NOT KNOWING that Lewis and Harris are joined, despite being called ‘isle of Lewis’ and ‘isle of Harris’. Mind blown.

I was glad the author did the two narratives once again, and found the dementia riddled narrative quite clever, especially as the ‘voice’ became clearer and less confused the further back in time he was remembering. I enjoyed the mystery, though I felt a little more attached to the victim than I usually do, and sad that he was dead at all. The bog body in the peat was fascinating and you can’t get a more Scottish murder than that (I wonder if the victim wore tartan??) The seemingly separate plots all merged together in the end in a way Agatha Christie might have been pleased with.

A good book, looking forward to the third...

PS: Part of this book was set in Harris and the ten year old in me still finds the name ‘Harris’ a bit funny... Where I was born in Berkshire, England, ‘harris’ is a slang term for ‘bottom/arse’. My Grandad often playfully yelled ‘Get off yer harris!’ It’s quite immature, especially as Northern England and Scotland have never heard of this, but it is a little blast from childhood that still makes me smile.


message 41: by Ellen (last edited Jun 03, 2018 07:10AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading The Travelling Companion, I bumped Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde right up my reading list. Set in London, but by a Scottish author, I’ve been wanting to read this classic for a while. Unsurprisingly, it’s brilliant. The only way it would be better is if we didn’t know the famous plot twist that makes the book world famous. I don’t think I would have guessed that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person, the book showed no hint of paranormal or horror before this, and I can just imagine the shock of Victorian readers at this ghastly revelation. As it was published during the time of Jack the Ripper, I can see why Hyde would be extra terrifying. (There’s a story I heard of a man being so scared by an actor’s performance of Jekyll/Hyde, that he ran out of the theatre screaming and demanded the actor be arrested as The Ripper. Might be an old wives tale but I hope it’s true!)

I won’t go into the morality and deep thinking in this book, I probably wouldn’t do it justice. It asks some big questions, of our inner selves, society, class, religion vs science etc, which weren’t lost on me but I too enjoyed it as a fantastic work of fiction.

It’s very short, and a quick read, so short I worried I had picked up a watered down version from the library... But no, it’s a fast whip into the unknown.

My one bugbear, is that I didn’t like Jekyll, or find him that ‘good’. He had some sinful past which doesn’t count because he’s a bachelor (um, what?) and he relished the freedom of the horrible Hyde. So I wasn’t overly surprised that Jekyll was capable of harbouring a Hyde character within his own. Saying that, I was caught carrying the book around and was told I seemed very ‘attached’ to it, which kind of freaked me out. Maybe my own version of Hyde is itching to be let loose...?


message 42: by Jack (last edited Jun 03, 2018 02:29PM) (new)

Jack Deighton | 52 comments Ellen wrote: "18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading The Travelling Companion, I bumped Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde right..."


Even if Jekyll and Hyde are not true döppelgangers (being different in appearance) the döppelganger is a constant refrain in Scottish fiction from Hogg's "Confessions of a Justified Sinner" onwards. Nevertheless Stevenson's is perhaps the best known example.
"Strange Case" is an examination of the dualities within us all and a timeless warning about inability to control desire as well as an illustration of the perennial attraction of the dark side of human nature to the Scottish writer.


message 43: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading The Travelling Companion, I bumped Dr Jekyll and..."


Just seen this, Jack! I didn’t know about the previous döppelgangers, how intriguing that Scottish writers return to this idea in literature...

I was fascinated by the symbolism of the bottle of potion and how it could be translated into the real world. The act of transformation, of lesser responsibility, of the darker side revealed. It made me think of domestic violence, a respectable man known and liked by all, but behind closed doors he beats and abuses his wife. Privacy is one of the ‘potions’ that reveals human’s darker nature. Alcohol is also the more obvious ‘potion’ - a doorway that can transform seemingly nice people into unrecognisable versions of themselves. I can could go on with examples, it’s such a clever metaphor and really genius. But no matter what your potion, I still feel it is not excusable. Jekyll was no less responsible for Hyde’s actions, even if he was a voyeur and Hyde was the perpetrator. So even though it’s a book about duality, I cannot call Jekyl the ‘good guy’. Which is why, I think, quite justly, Stevenson probably saw fit to slowly transform Jekyll into Hyde without even a potion for an excuse. You take delight in Hyde’s action, you become Hyde. A really genius book.


message 44: by Jack (new)

Jack Deighton | 52 comments Ellen wrote: "Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading The Travelling Companion, I bumped ..."


I have a theory as to why the döppelganger is/was so attractive to Scottish writers - it's to do with Scottish identity being submerged politically into the larger UK after the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, with English usages and manners then being promoted as superior; so that a modernish Scot effectively had two identities and didn't quite know who he or she really was. The dichotomy has perhaps lessened since the (new, subsidiary) Scottish Parliament was set up twenty years ago but is still there to some extent.
It doesn't explain the countless "meet with the Devil" stories in Scottish literature though. Another tradition in which Hogg's "Confessions of a Justified Sinner" resides. It really is a seminal Scottish text.


message 45: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Jack wrote: "Ellen wrote: "18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

After reading The Travelling Companion ? It seems the tradition is being carried on in modern Scot Lit too.



message 46: by Ellen (last edited Jun 16, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
What’s wrong with Goodreads? This is my third attempt at a reply to Jack’s comment and it only saves my last sentence (see above). Jack - you mentioned the Devil and he’s tampering with my comments! ;)

PS: if the comment before this one appears as a whole big paragraph to you, could you let me know, as it’s only showing me a tiny bit of my original text.


message 47: by Jack (new)

Jack Deighton | 52 comments I can only see "After reading The Travelling Companion ? It seems the tradition is being carried on in modern Scot Lit too."


message 48: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Jack wrote: "I can only see "After reading The Travelling Companion ? It seems the tradition is being carried on in modern Scot Lit too.""

Hmm... Thanks for letting me know, I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. Will try again tomorrow after a few deep breaths :)


message 49: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
19. Island of Dreams: A Personal History of a Remarkable Place by Dan Boothby
Island of Dreams A Personal History of a Remarkable Place by Dan Boothby

I started this book for my local library book club (although The Hurricane Bookclub is also a group across Scotland) but just can’t seem to get into it. It’s kind of a memoir of the author’s time spent living and taking care of a tiny Scottish island (Kyleakin, near Skye) and it’s lighthouse where the famous author Gavin Maxwell used to live and write. Maxwell’s famous for his pet otters and his books surrounding them (I haven’t read any of his work, undecided whether to try him out) but this book has been a bit lacking in otters so far, not including the lovely illustrated one on the cover. To be harsh, I’d say it’s all a bit dull, the writing is unimaginative, and I get the funny feeling that I wouldn’t get on with the author in real life! I’m definitely not warming to him, which shouldn’t matter, as horrible people are fun to read about! But he’s not horrible, judgemental but not nasty. He’s just someone I’d rather not talk to nor, it seems, read about. The island itself, it’s landscape and weather, should be epic and fascinating but his writing is quite plain and doesn’t do it justice. One positive - the cover illustration is lovely, hope it was by a local Scottish artist.

So I’ve put it aside for now, maybe I’ll pop back to it when I’m in a more forgiving mood. If I had to some it all up in one word, I would say ‘uninspiring’.


message 50: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
20. Skinner's Rules by Quintin Jardine
Skinner's Rules (Bob Skinner, #1) by Quintin Jardine

Going though a bad streak - didn’t enjoy this book. It was a bit of a slog to get through, despite a strong start and a series of quite unique murders. The middle was painfully slow, with obscure politics, and unclear direction. It did speed up at the end, but by then I was too busy scoffing to enjoy it!

I didn’t take to the detective too much. Macho, finds all the clues, (no credit to anyone else), loved by everyone, black belt karate champ, etc etc. Nah. I’ve read other book reviews of this one here on Goodreads, and they say the series gets better (I think there’s 26 of the things!) but I think I’ll give them a miss. Too much politics, neat endings, unrealistic detective bringing down assassin spies singlehandedly with the help of a falling shelf. Not joking. The best bit about it was the Scottish accent occasionally (but inconsistently) thrown in.

Also, unleashing my feminism, it was a tad sexist. I got particularly irate at this scenario: two police officers had a house under surveillance, something went wrong, and they went to investigate. The male police officer got to the door and said ‘Wait here.’ And by the tone of his voice, the female officer didn’t think to argue. Um...ok. Mister Man then found two freshly murdered people while she waited outside doing nothing. (I would love to hear her report to her superior!) The author could have perhaps argued a contamination issue, less feet on the bloodied floor etc, but that went out the window, when clumsy Mister Man only knelt in a pool of blood and got it all over his breeks. Sigh. To add insult to injury, we found out earlier, that the female officer actually outranks him. I could go on, there were loads of tiny details that were a bit odd regarding (almost but not quite swooning) females. You could argue times have changed, the book is showing it’s age... But then why have female officers in the book at all? Oh. Let’s not go there.


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