Posted 20 hours ago

And the Land Lay Still

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The Baron is very much in the mould of Scott’s Baron Bradwardine, being affable, forgetful, annoying, sentimental and loyal to his own place.

Settling us around the campfire is minstrel Michael Newton with his longform saga ‘ Better than Gold: The People Behind the Folktales in the Highlands’. But such a complex tale can offer no straightforward narrative arc, no denouement or easy unravelling of this intricate, entangled web. Toweringly ambitious, virtually flawlessly realized, a masterpiece and, without a doubt, my book of the year”.The Handsel Press was founded in 1976 to publish high quality academic and more popular books relating Christian faith to other fields of study, and to the arts. If you know little about Scottish nationalism, you could do no worse than read this book, which acts as something of a primer to the subject. His subject is Scotland, always Scotland, but his theme is faith – faith in a God, faith in a country, faith in a person or a principle.

In a surprising twist, our own New Writing Scotland celebrates a big birthday in this year of stories, and former editor Valerie Thornton casts an eye over the anthology’s evolution as the nation’s principal forum for short fiction and poetry in ‘ New Writing Scotland at 40’. We reluctantly succumbed to the notion of unquestioning exploitation of the globe's resources, in accordance with the degree of power a company or an individual enjoyed in the marketplace, but were less than enamoured at having this paradigm thrust upon us. The book employs several complex framing devices, but even the factual grist of the main narrative will seem obscure to readers unschooled in recent Scottish history.Robertson, of course, cleverly has some of these stories crossing one another, with people bumping into each other and then not meeting again for many years, or meeting in ways you might not suspect. James Robertson’s breathtaking novel is a portrait of modern Scotland as seen through the eyes of natives and immigrants, journalists and politicians, drop-outs and spooks, all trying to make their way through a country in the throes of great and rapid change. A joy to read -- Irvine Welsh * Guardian * Gripping, vivid, beautifully realized * The Times * Powerful and moving.

A lot of work, then, for one Unreliable Narrator and so my thanks to this issue’s raconteurs, here to tell a fraction of the tale.Joseph Knight was awarded the two major Scottish literary awards in 2003/4 - the Saltire Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year - and The Testament of Gideon Mack was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, picked by Richard and Judy's Book Club, and shortlisted for the Saltire Book of the Year award.

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