Misc.

Burns Night – Books Set in Scotland

In honour of Burns Night, a Scottish holiday that celebrates the life of Scots poet Robert Burns, I thought I’d share a selection of books set in the beautiful country that is Scotland. So prepare your haggis wi tatties an neeps, pour out a wee dram, and settle down by the roaring fire with one of these reads…

Outlander & A History of Scotland

  • If you’ve been following the blog since 2015, you’ve probably heard me mention the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon more than once… I’m just a little bit obsessed! It follows Claire Randall, a combat nurse from 1945, who is in the Scottish Highlands on her honeymoon. Whilst out exploring the countryside, she somehow steps back through time, via a stone circle, and ends up in 1743. She gets caught up with the clans, the Jacobite Rebellion, one dastardly ancestor of her husband, and one very, very sexy be-kilted James Fraser. I’m slowly working my way through the whole series, but so far the first book has been my favourite, because we get to watch Claire and Jamie’s relationship grow.
  • If you fancy a bit of non-fiction instead, then A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver might do the trick. I bought this last year and haven’t yet read it, but I have read his A History of Ancient Britain, which was excellent and very accessible, whether you know your history or not.

Harry Potter & Macbeth

  • It might be forgotten at times, but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is set in Scotland! Students take the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross all the way up north into Scotland. Hogwarts is supposedly located somewhere near Dufftown, in the Highlands, which interestingly is near the Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery… Although I’m pretty sure Hogwarts students are more interested in Butterbeer and Firewhiskey!
  • Of course, William Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth is set in Scotland. The ‘Scottish play’ tells of Macbeth, a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will become King of Scotland. Not wanting to delay his ascension to the throne, and also spurred on by Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan and takes the throne. His actions make him paranoid and guilt-ridden, and his reign is one of tyranny.

Trainspotting & The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • The infamous tale of heroin addicts, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is a 20th century classic. It is made up of short stories, all set in Leith, Edinburgh, and written in a mix of Scots, Scottish English and British English. Maybe not the thing to read if you’re looking for a nice, cosy read about Scotland… but a classic all the same.
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is one of the author’s best known works, and is set in 1930s Edinburgh. Miss Brodie teaches a group of six girls, in subjects such as classical studies and art history. The book frequently flashes forward through time to show glimpses of the future, and reveals that one of Miss Brodie’s students will eventually betray her.

Kidnapped & Knots and Crosses

  • Kidnapped by Robert Louise Stevenson is a classic adventure story, about the orphaned David Balfour. After a trip to find his last living relative, Uncle Ebenezer, goes horribly wrong, David finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned on a ship. However, it is soon wrecked off the coast of Scotland, and David must make his way back across the Highlands. Kidnapped is set in the period after the Jacobite Rebellion, a very tumultuous period of Scotland’s history.
  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin is the first of Rankin’s famous Inspector Rebus series, which follows Detective Sergeant John Rebus as he investigates grizzly crimes throughout Edinburgh. Like Trainspotting, this might not be the one to read just before going off on a weekend away to Edinburgh! 😉

Have you read any of these books? Can you suggest any other great reads set in Scotland?

Recap

Last few days of the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2012

Well, the festival is finally over, and I really wish it wasn’t! It was such a fantastic two weeks that seemed to fly by, and there was never a dull moment. I last told you about the events of Tuesday 9th October, so this post will cover from Wednesday until the very end.

Wednesday got off to an exciting start: we met Dan Snow, who has presented many history TV programs, and got a team photo:

I also caught a glimpse of Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, who work on the TV show Wartime Farm (and are archaeologists, yeahhh!). As I was working the early shift, I missed the evening events which included Adam Hart-Davis, Pam Ayres, Andrew Marr, Hilary Devey, AA Gill, Nigella Lawson and Mark Haddon.

Thursday was my day off, but notable guests included Lucy Worsley, John McCarthy, Tom and Henry Herbert (the Fabulous Baker Brothers), Ben Fogle, Caitlin Moran, Gunnar Staalesen, Stephen Mangan and Victoria Pendleton.

Welly boots signed by Caitlin Moran (apparently all guests were signing wellies – I don’t know why!)
 
Friday’s guests included Sinclair McKay, Michael Smith and Julian Baggini, all of whom I managed to see; as well as Robert MacFarlane, Rose Tremain, Erica Wagner, Sandi Toksvig, Kirstie Allsopp, Alan Garner, Dom Joly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul O’Grady.
On Saturday, I saw Kathy Reichs (creator of TV show Bones) and Val McDermid (creator of Wire in the Blood), and then met Larry Lamb in the afternoon!

Larry Lamb – more like Mick Shipman than Archie Mitchell 😉
 
I also had to stand next to Ian Rankin whilst he was signing books, to stop any over eager fans from invading his personal space. One man there was obviously a massive fan – he brought practically the entire back catalogue with him, and couldn’t stop shaking whilst talking to Ian! Whilst we were waiting for Ian Rankin to turn up, I heard a customer saying he couldn’t find any T.S. Eliot – so I showed him where the books were, and he spent a good ten minutes explaining why everyone should read Four Quarters, and that your life is not complete unless you have. It was so nice to see someone so passionate about it. Later on both Jeremy Vine and Ben Miller were just wandering around the tents, browsing – I got to speak to Jeremy Vine.

Sunday, the last day of the festival proper, was just as eventful. A.C. Grayling was signing in the morning, and I took some stock over for him to sign and had a chat with him – he was lovely, and took a real interest in my degree. He was so polite and came over and personally thanked me when he left. I also saw Ian McEwan when he was doing his signing, but the biggest event of the day (at least when I was there)? David Walliams.

He signed so much – 240 stock copies before the event even started, then whatever customers took him! The queue was massive, and there were crowds of people taking photos and hanging around the signing area. He was lovely, making people laugh and chatting with them, posing for photos and just being an all round friendly guy. Finally, the last guest I saw was David Mitchell. I apologise for the awful photo…

His publicist was very stern though… me and a colleague were just about to get a photo with him when she whisked him away. I did manage to grab one of a friend with him though, so that’s something! I got the impression he was happy to be there, signing what people wanted, but his publicist wanted him to sign only his autobiography.

Autographs from Larry Lamb, Polly Findlay and Christopher Eccleston.

Yesterday was packing up day. Boxing up books, taking down shelves, tidying up the mess… and it was so fun. It was just all of us temps together, and at one point we had run out of boxes to pack books in, so had nothing to do. Instead, we sat around on the beanbags in the kid’s tent chatting for a bit, which was really great.

Meerkats surveying the clearing up…
 
This was all such a fantastic experience and I will definitely be applying to work again next year! I actually find it quite hard to write about the festival properly. I can tell you all about the famous people I met, post some photos, but honestly the bit that was the most fun was meeting new people: colleagues and customers. Meeting people who share the same passion as me: books. And it would be really hard to write those experiences down, and make them interesting to others, so I’m just going to keep them all to myself =)