Samantha Harvey PIC: Pako Mera/Shutterstock

Book review: The Shapeless Unease, by Samantha Harvey

This is an extremely curious book, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. The spine of it is writing around Samantha Harvey’s experience of insomnia; but it becomes far more than a moan about sleeplessness. Her efforts to understand what is happening (or more precisely not happening) spiral out in manifold ways.

Rosamund Lupton PIC: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Book review: Three Hours, by Rosamund Lupton

There is no shortage of books about school shootings: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver; Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes. What makes Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours more unusual, perhaps, is that it is set, not in the US, which had almost one shooting a week last year – but in Britain, in the usually safe environment of a leafy private school in the south of England.

Mark Douglas-Home

Book review: The Driftwood Girls, By Mark Douglas-Home

As one character, Detective-Sergeant Helen Jamieson, says when this fourth novel in Mark Douglas-Home’s Sea Detective series is near its end, it’s “a long and rather complicated story about betrayal, revenge and murder.” “Complicated” is certainly the right word. The knots Douglas-Home ties are so intricate and tight that you wonder if they can be unravelled. Happily, they are, and this novel is in the John Buchan tradition in that it offers a plot which is agreeably improbable, but stops short of being impossible.

Charlie Gracie

Book review: Tales From The Dartry Mountains, by Charlie Gracie

In 2018, in a speech that bore a passing resemblance to one given by Adolf Hitler in 1933, Theresa May famously said: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means.” (Hitler referred to “people who are at home both nowhere and everywhere, who do not have anywhere a soil on which they have grown up”.)

JM Coetzee PIC: Agf/Shutterstock

Book review: The Death Of Jesus, by JM Coetzee

JM Coetzee is an intriguing and acclaimed author, having won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Booker Prize, twice. I very much admired works such as Waiting For The Barbarians, Life & Times Of Michael K and Disgrace. But here’s the rub: I admired them but I never really enjoyed them. There is a frostiness to his work, an almost deliberate opacity. They hint at being profound, but are they?

Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival is staging a day-long event to herald the start of the first Year of Coasts and Waters.

14 highlights of the cultural year ahead in Scotland

The biggest ever celebration of Scotland's shorelines, 30 years of one of Scotland's most iconic venues and a new festival created in honour of country music legend Johnny Cash's ancestral links with Scotland are already shaping up to be among the highlights of the cultural year ahead.
"The Sea" by Irvine Welsh, projected onto the Malmaison Hotel in Leith as part of Message From The Skies

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay review: Message From The Skies

You’ve heard about the negative aspects of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay; the gates and barriers blocking off streets for the Hogmanay Party, the wristbands for residents trying to reach their own homes, the hugely overblown Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens, and the £12 Loony Dook at South Queensferry, that even tries to monetize the chilly waters of the Forth. Yet here - spreading beautifully across five locations from Fountainbridge to Leith - is one of the festival’s undoubted upsides; one that is absolutely free to experience, and will still be with us when the rest of the festive glitz and flummery has gone, since it continues until Burns Night, 25 January.

A Thousand Moons, Sebastian Barry's sequel to Days Without End, is due to be published in March by Faber & Faber PIC: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

2020: The Year Ahead in Books, by Allan Massie

Sebastian Barry’s last novel, Days Without End, won several prizes , chief among them the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. A Thousand Moons, to be published in March by Faber & Faber, is a sequel, but this time the story is told by Winona, the Lakota orphan adopted by Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and brought up in, what was for the times, an unorthodox household on a farm in Tennessee. There can be few novelists today who write as well as Barry.

Karen Campbell PIC: John Devlin

Arts review of 2019: Allan Massie’s books of the year

One can never say for certain that literary prizes go to the best authors or the best books, for there’s never an indisputable literary league table. Nevertheless the Saltire Society should find few ready to question two of their judgements this year: the fiction award to Ewan Morrison for his novel NinaX and the non-fiction one to Melanie Reid for her memoir of recovery from a horrible accident, The World I Fell Out Of.

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