Archives » 100 Best Scottish Books

Brond by Frederic Lindsay

Polygon, 2007, 220 p. First published 1984. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

 Brond cover

Glasgow University student Richard sees a man throw a boy off a bridge into the River Kelvin but at first thinks he must have imagined it. Through the medium of fellow student Margaret Briody, whom he fancies and who asks him to deliver a package for her, it is not long before he is drawn into a complex situation involving IRA sleepers, multiple murder and the machinations of agents of the state against Scottish independence activists (though this last does not become clear until quite late on in the book.) Chief of those agents is the mysterious Brond of the title, whose baleful presence pervades the novel.

Before settling into the more or less standard thriller mode, though with the odd philosophical aside, the narrative has a tendency to be slightly overwritten, as if Lindsay is trying too hard, though there are some fine touches. (Of the noise-propagating acoustics of the University of Glasgow’s Reading Room Robert says, “It was such a drawback in a library I was sure the architect must have won a clutch of awards.”)

The politics of the plot are mostly relegated to the background. One character describes Scotland as a valuable piece of real estate, another opines, “here in Scotland we have this difficulty finding our voice.” One English girl questions Robert, “‘What do you mean “accent”?’” before adding, “‘I don’t talk like a Cockney… I talk like ordinary people who sound as if they don’t come from anywhere.’” One of the spooks speaks of the necessity “‘to forestall … the risk, however remote, of the natives here getting restless.’”

In my view there are too many thriller/crime novels on that “100 Best” list. Brond is yet another. I can see, because of the background politics, why some people might regard it as a significant Scottish novel but it doesn’t, to my mind, really address the nature of Scottishness, or go much beyond “the state acts in its own interests” trope though it incidentally reflects attitudes of some English people to their neighbours.

It does, however, all pass easily enough but I was never able to suspend my disbelief to the required degree.

Pedant’s corner:- like lightening (lightning,) sulphur lamps (they did give off a yellowish light but they were sodium lamps,) the Barrows (always known as the Barras, never the Barrows. Its name above its gates even says ‘the Barras’,) contigent (contingent,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, comitments (commitments.)

Tunes of Glory by James Kennaway

Canongate Classics, 1989, 180 p, plus v p Introduction by Allan Massie. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

 Tunes of Glory cover

Lt Colonel Jock Sinclair, ex-Barlinnie, has come up from the ranks and the Pipe Band via a good war to become acting commander of a battalion of an unnamed Scottish regiment. While the battalion is engaged in boisterous dancing practice the new Colonel, Basil Barrow, graduate of Eton, Oxford and Sandhurst (and a Japanese POW camp,) arrives the evening before he was expected. His displeasure at the raucous activity is clear and the seeds of conflict are sown. The new Colonel is soon dubbed Barrow boy, and his demand that all officers gather in the early morning three days a week to practice dancing in a more refined style incurs resentment.

Sinclair has a penchant for drink and a daughter, Morag, of whom he is overly protective. He also maintains an interest in Mary Titterton, an actress in the local Repertory company, with whom he can relax. These two women are the only two in the book and are little more than placeholders. Kennaway’s interests lie elsewhere, in the exigencies of army life, the necessity of sticking to military etiquette and the drawbacks these entail.

Sinclair’s behaviour on a night out in the town eventually puts Barrow in an impossible position. Neither can deal with the consequences.

I watched the film made from this on television a few years ago. As far as I recall it, it stayed remarkably true to the book. In his introduction Allan Massie says the ending works better cinematically than in the novel, mainly due to Alec Guiness’s presence as an actor. There is something to this analysis but Kennaway’s examination of army life and the pressures it puts on emotional life is nevertheless illuminating.

Pedant’s corner:- in the author’s background information page; Aucherarder (Auchterarder.) The publishing information says first published in 1933 in Canada; the text mentions television sets and is clearly set post-Second World War , so 1953? In Allan Massie’s Introduction; “a corporal, unknown to him, is his daughter’s boyfriend” (a corporal who, unknown to him, is….) locak (local,) Reportory (Repertory,) “He didn not.” (He did not,) respsonsibility (responsibility.) Otherwise: hooched (this can be read to be an allusion to illicit alcohol. The sound referred to is more usually written as ‘heughed’,) Jesus’ (Jesus’s,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, clack-handed (usually it’s cack-handed.) “There were a score of details” (there was a score.)

Reading Scotland 2018

The ones in bold are in the 100 Best Scottish Books list.

I’ve read 33 Scottish (in the broadest sense) books in 2018, 7 SF or Fantasy (italicised,) 13 by women, 20 by men. E M Brown (aka Eric Brown) qualifies by having a small part of Buying Time set in Scotland and by living near Dunbar for the past few years.

I’ve not a good balance this year between men and women, mainly due to exhausting the women on the 100 Best list.

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
Living Nowhere by John Burnside
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone
When They Lay Bare by Andrew Greig
Autumn by Ali Smith
The Great Chain of Unbeing by Andrew Crumey
The Lie of the Land by Michael Russell
As Though We Were Flying by Andrew Geig
Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine
Jericho Sleep Alone by Chaim I Bermant
Hame by Annalena McAfee
The Thirteenth Disciple by J Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)
Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant
The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan
The New Road by Neil Munro
Glitter of Mica by Jessie Kesson
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
The Abbess of Crewe by Muriel Spark
Supercute Futures by Martin Milllar
The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey
Adam Blair by J G Lockhart
Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh
The Shipbuilders by George Blake
Mr Alfred M.A. by George Friel
Serious Sweet by A L Kennedy
Interrupted Journey by James Wilson
The Bone Yard by Paul Johnston
Buying Time by E M Brown

Mr Alfred M.A. by George Friel

Canongate Classics, 1987, 181 p, plus v p Introduction by Douglas Gifford. First published in 1972. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

Mr Alfred is an ageing teacher of English unable to make connections with the pupils at the school where he teaches – a comprehensive in a rough area. Never married, his sense of failure is compounded by the lack of success his poetry collection found. His only solace is to habituate the local and not so local pubs. Not even ladies of the night hold any attraction for him. Strangely – the practice was not followed in the schools I attended as a pupil at much the same time as this book is set – the classes in Mr Alfred’s school are segregated by sex; until halfway through the book he has never taught girls.

Alfred is particularly irritated by the habitual misbehaviour, in and out of school, of Gerald Provan, a child whose mother indulges and cossets him, perhaps as a counterbalance for the absence of his father – though it was not uncommon for mothers of that generation to favour sons unduly. Gerald’s younger sister, Senga, is under no illusions as to Gerald’s unpleasantness as she has to bear its brunt at home. Mr Alfred’s mistake in striking Gerald in class becomes the source of the abiding resentment of and animosity towards Alfred of both son and mother.

A particular example of Scottish perceptions lies in the incidental exchange, “‘How is she qualified to improve anybody?’ Mr Alfred asked.
“I told you,’ said Mr Dale. ‘She’s English,’” which speaks volumes.

We also have, “Scotch reserve looked askance on kissing even between kin.”

An odd interpolation comes with the passages concerning the doomed relationship between relatively well-to-do Graeme Roy and the working class Martha Weipers, whose respective parents disapprove of the liaison. Both go on to University but while Martha does well Graeme fails his first year exams. Neither was taught by Mr Alfred but Martha’s sister, Rose, is in his first girls’ class and he forms too close an attachment to her, sending her to buy his lunch, rewarding her with pocket money, inviting her to his classroom at lunchtime. While he is aware such relationships can overstep the boundaries of decent behaviour he shies away from the thought – or act – of exploiting theirs in any sexual way. His conduct is nevertheless highly unprofessional and it provides the two Provans with the perfect excuse to accuse him. He is forced out to another, rougher, school – a Primary – and his descent accelerates.

Much of the latter part of the book sees Mr Alfred wandering the streets at night pondering the writing on the wall, a host of graffiti asserting different gang allegiances, each name followed by the words YA BASS. This sense of societal breakdown had been presaged by Gerald Provan’s encouragement of after-school fights in the Weavers Lane, the casual psychological cruelty he and his cohorts visit on Granny Lyons, their baiting of and petty theft from Italian shopkeeper Mr Ianello, and is accentuated when Mr Alfred witnesses encounters between gangs in broad daylight. Alfred even takes up chalk himself to reproduce that original writing on the wall, MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN, in a cri-de-coeur against Philistinism. This protest is only too redolent of Alfred’s estrangement from the world he inhabits, an estrangement mirrored in the text by Friel’s use of uncommon words – kyphosis, pandiculating, messan, raniform, poplitic, ophidian, invulting, claudication, lycorexia, perlustration, battology, nuchal, diplopia, prosthodontia, pyknophrasia, and indeed by the untranslated reference to Belshazzar’s Feast above. Alfred’s subsequent arrest leads to a psychologist pronouncing him to be suffering from a whole list of phobias.

While the book is rooted in Scottishness – or at least in the experiences of the Glasgow conurbation – Alfred’s feeling of dissatisfaction with the world as it turned out has a more universal resonance.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction: “she borde the kitchen” (the book’s text had borded.) Otherwise; “she borded the kitchen sink (bordered?) “you hands” (your hands,) comming up (coming up,) invulting (I can’t find a definition of this,) lushus (of a blonde, but why not luscious?) Mr Briggs’ (Mr Briggs’s,) “so remoted from the world’s slow stain,” (is an awkward way to phrase it. Was it perhaps meant to be so removed from the world?) broadshouldered (not one word surely? Or at least hyphenated,) the Garelochhead (Garelochhead is a village/town, it does not require a ‘the’ before it,) apotrapaic (apotropaic,) Mr Brigg’s (Mr Briggs’s,) Pythagoras’ theorem (Pythagoras’s,) a missing full stop.

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey

Penguin Popular Classics, 1997, 265 p, including Original Preface (7 p,) Preface to the Collected Edition (4 p,) The Daughter of Lebanon (6 p,) Appendix (9 p.) First published 1821-22. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater cover

I doubt I would have read this had it not been in that list of 100 best Scottish books but what place it has in such a list I have no idea. While describing the author’s peregrinations through England – taking in Manchester, London and the Lake District – and Wales there is nothing at all to indicate any sense of Scottishness within it. The only mention of the place is in a footnote which states that from Hammerfest in Norway in the north to Naples and Gibraltar in the south “Glasgow … is the one dearest place for lodgings known to man.” What in Edinburgh “could be had for half a guinea a week, in Glasgow cost one guinea.” De Quincey did spend the latter part of his life living in Edinburgh but I’m not sure that allows this work, even if it is a seminal piece of autobiography, to be claimed as Scottish.

The footnotes are copious and include the information that filibustier is the original and, De Quincey asserts correct, spelling of filibuster and that the word objective in the sense of dispassionate was almost unknown in 1821. (This last must be a footnote to the collected edition of 1856.)

The prose is of its time and to modern eyes appears long-winded. As with Walter Scott it takes getting used to but once attuned is straightforward enough.

The main interest lies I suppose in the author’s use of opium which he took originally in order to relieve a toothache and the effects of which he asserts were not addictive – to him at any rate. He takes issue with Coleridge over the suggested drawbacks of opium use and contrasts the drug with alcohol. “Whereas wine disorders the mental faculties, opium, on the contrary (if taken in the proper manner) introduces amongst them the most exquisite order, legislation and harmony. Wine robs a man of his self-possession, opium sustains and reinforces it ….. most men are disguised by sobriety, and exceedingly disguised; and it is when they are drinking that men display themselves in their true complexion of character.” However discussion of opium does not begin until more than two-thirds through, the early parts of the book giving a blow by blow account of his schooling – and dropping out – and his penniless sojourns in the streets of London.

Other concerns intrude at times, “If in this world there is one misery having no relief, it is the pressure on the heart from the Incommunicable,” which is of a piece with sentiments expressed both in Time Was and I Capture the Castle which I read immediately prior to this.

However, De Quincey’s implicit reproof of others in his statement that, “at no time of my life have I been a person to hold myself polluted by the touch or approach of any creature that wore a human shape,” sits uneasily with his aspersions elsewhere on those who did not adhere to Christian beliefs or did not live in these islands – and even some of those: “Wales, as is pretty well known, breeds a population somewhat litigious. I do not think worse of them for that.” To which I immediately posed myself the question, what does he think the worse of them for, then?

A historical curiosity. But one more struck off that list.

Pedant’s corner:- Due to the book’s antiquity 19th century spellings are fairly prevalent; eg Shakspere for Shakespeare. Most page numbers are in large print at the top left (even pages) or right (odd pages) margin but pages 13 and 249 are in small print centred at the bottom,) “the whole race of man proclaim” (the race proclaims,) “the household at the Priory were released” (the household was released,) “the brother Talbots” (the brothers Talbot,) “by-the-bye” (by-the-by,) an opened but unclosed parenthesis on page198, parantheses (parentheses.)

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Vintage, 2012, 358 p plus i p Author’s Note and vii p introduction by Tom Rob Smith. First published 1957.

I did not have great hopes for this. If it hadn’t been on the list of the 100 best Scottish Books I would never have picked it up, still less paid for it. It was, however, available from a local Library – these need as much patronage as they can get – I therefore borrowed it. Even so my expectations were not met. The novel is written in journalese, the prose fails to rise even to the utilitarian, the characters are barely one-dimensional, never mind rounded. And info-dumping is rife.

Then there is the implicit racism. “It was a strong Western handful of operative fingers – not the banana skin handshake of the East that makes you want to wipe your fingers on your coat-tails.” The casual misogyny of the time, too, is shown by the sentences, “All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped,” and, “I got her to my place and took away her clothes and kept her chained naked under the table.” True, Fleming puts these into the mouth of a Turk but it’s still misogyny. Unexamined misogyny, to which Bond does not demur. An organised fight between two gipsy girls over a man (which reads as merely an excuse to describe their clothes sequentially coming off) is misogynystic and racist both. Bond’s right wing attitude – so by extension Fleming’s? There is nothing in the text that would contradict this – is exemplified by him saying, “As for England, the trouble today is that carrots are all the fashion.” That is, as opposed to sticks.

Moreover the structure is a bit odd. Bond isn’t mentioned till page 61 and does not appear himself till page 151. Tom Rob Smith’s Introduction regards this as a strength but the focus of Part One, Donovan Grant, a half-German, half-Irish psychopathic hitman employed by Smersh through expediency rather than approval of any sort, does not reappear till the climax (and then instead of just killing Bond this supposed total psychopath Grant explains to him the nature of the plot against him thus giving Bond some time to formulate a way out.)

That plot concerns the supposed falling in love with Bond via his photograph of Tatiana Romanova, in order to entice him into a trap – the additional bait being her bringing to Bond a Spektor cryptographic machine – whereby he will be disgraced. The egotist Bond cannot quite work out why this is a red flag. Cue, though, many goings-on in Istanbul and a trip back west on the Orient Express; a singularly unlikely escape route.

I suspect these things work much better on a film screen than on a page. Whatever, this book certainly is not worthy of a place on any list of 100 best Scottish books.

Pedant’s corner:- a masseuse is described as having tufts of fair hair in her armpits but has short coarse black hair (genetics doesn’t work like that and there was no mention of dyeing,) “one of the men-servants” (the word is manservant, the plural is surely manservants,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, long-chassied (the word is chassis, so long-chassised,) “there was a diminishing crescendo” (crescendos rise to a climax, they do not descend. A descent is a diminuendo.)

Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant

Penguin Classics, 1998, 499 p, plus 21p Notes, 28 p Appendices, i p Contents, iv p Chronology of the author’s life, xxii p Introduction, iii p Notes on the Introduction, ii p Further Reading, ii p A Note on the Text. First published, serially, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 1865-6 and in three volume book form, 1866. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

 Miss Marjoribanks cover

Four years after her mother’s death, Miss Marjoribanks (that designation is used much more frequently than the character’s given name, Lucilla) returns to Carlingford from her education (plus a year’s finishing in Switzerland and Italy) and sets out to redesign not only her father’s domestic arrangements but also the polite society of the town. Constantly declaiming it is her sole purpose to be “a comfort to Papa” she feels duty bound not to marry for at least ten years and none of the eligible bachelors who enter her orbit manages to “engage her affections”. Not Mr Cavendish whose sister is the town mimic, forever taking people off, and whose origins are somewhat obscure but is said to be “one of the Cavendishes”; not the Archdeacon, Mr Beverley, who is favourite to become bishop should Carlingford ascend to the status of a see; not even Mr Ashburton, despite Miss Marjoribanks immediately divining that he is the man for Carlingford when the old MP dies and nudging him onto the path to candidacy.

The first two volumes are given over to the workings out of the relationships between Lucilla and the former two men and the interest shown – especially by the ladies – in any possible match. The third is set after those ten years have elapsed. Much of the intrigue is centre round Lucilla’s institution of “evenings” every Thursday. The narrative is not quite so wordy as a Walter Scott novel but is still fairly prolix, possibly due to its initial serialisation in Blackwood’s Magazine.

Prominent are Oliphant’s thoughts on men as mediated through Miss Marjoribanks’s views and comments. In this discourse pronouns for men as a group are frequently capitalised and italicised as They, Their and Them. One of Lucilla’s observations leaves no doubt as to which she thinks is the more capable sex. “‘I am so sorry I don’t understand about politics. If we” [women] “were going in for that sort of thing, I don’t know what there would be left for gentlemen to do.’” Lucilla’s condescension to the lower orders (such as Barbara Lake and her sister Rose, the latter of whom considers herself eminently respectable, but who are the daughters of the town’s drawing master and so forever below the salt) strikes the modern reader forcibly and seems to reflect Oliphant’s own opinions. However, very little of Oliphant’s Scottish background is evident, really only this, “Dr Marjoribanks was Scotch, and had a respect for ‘talent’ in every development, as is natural to his nation,” but a certain English attitude permeates the sentence, “she had been brought up in the old-fashioned orthodox way of having respect for religion, and as little to do with it as possible.”

It struck me on reading this that Oliphant’s Carlingford novels might make a suitable project for adaptation for TV instead of the usual suspects which are trotted out on a regular basis.

PS: Those of a sensitive nature might note that the text also contains a word which might offend the modern sensibility but which was used thoughtlessly in Victorian times in the line, “the committee, which ordered him about like a nigger.”

Pedant’s corner:- “‘Oh, nonsense, Lucilla.’” (Though she was present, the previous speaker had not been Lucilla,) “‘and me who have such a respect for religion’” (me who has,) “the Miss Browns” (the Misses Brown,) “a succession of dreadful thumps were heard” (a succession was heard,) “the Miss Blounts” (the Misses Blount,) “A series of the most enthusiastic compliments were paid” (strictly, a series was,) “neither of the two were very poetical” (neither of the two was…,) Westeria (wisteria,) goloshes (galoshes,) canvass (canvas, it was for a painting.) “Lucilla caught , as it were, and met, and forced to face her, her informant’s … look” (looks to have a “her” too many and also seems syntactically out of sorts,) two Miss Ravenswoods (Misses Ravenswood,) the Miss Penrhyns (the Misses Penrhyn,) Affghanistan blanket (nowadays Afghanistan.)
In the Notes: “the, shorter, Nicene creed” (the shorter, Nicene, creed,) “the pro-Dissenting wing … were campaigning” (the pro-Dissenting wing was campaigning.)

Reading Scotland 2016

I managed 31 Scottish books this year by ten women and fifteen men, though in total 11 were by women and 20 by men. Four were SF or Fantasy. Two were non-fiction and one a graphic novel.

The ones in bold were on the Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books. Those in italic are in the 100 best Scottish Books. If asterisked they were in Scotland’s favourite books.

The Secret Knowledge by Andrew Crumey
The Holy City by Meg Henderson
Asterix and the Pechts by Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad
Cold in the Earth by Aline Templeton
Clara by Janice Galloway
A Twelvemonth and a Day by Christopher Rush
Fergus Lamont by Robin Jenkins
The Gracekeepers by Kirstie Logan
In Another Light by Andrew Greig
The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd
A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil
The Lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst
The Scottish Tradition in Literature by Kurt Wittig
Murder at the Loch by Eric Brown
Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
How to be Both by Ali Smith
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
The Heart of Mid-Lothian by Walter Scott
The Antiquary by Walter Scott
Public library and other stories by Ali Smith
The Highway Men by Ken MacLeod
Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie
The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod
Body Politic by Paul Johnston
Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh*
Young Art and Old Hector by Neil M Gunn
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell*
The Brilliant and Forever by Kevin MacNeil
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod

Progress in Scottish Reading

A suitable post for St Andrew’s Day.

You may have noticed on my sidebar that I am reading Neil M Gunn’s Young Art and Old Hector.

This is one of The Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books.

Of the thirty books that were actually listed on that now defunct web page this means I will now have read twenty-nine (having made that my Scottish reading project for the year.)

The only one from that Herald list I have so far missed is Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, which has appeared on all four lists I’ve been working from* – a distinction it shares only with the otherwise incomparable Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

For some reason I have a reluctance to tackle Welsh’s book. I have seen the film that was made from it and wasn’t overly enthused. I’ll get round to it sometime.

*Those four lists:-
100 best Scottish Books;
The Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books;
Scotland’s favourite books;
and The Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read (from 2005.)
This last is the one I shall be working from next year. I’ll post the list in the new year.

Buddha Da by Anne Donovan

Canongate 2009, 346 p.

This is one from the 100 Best Scottish Books list which I wrote about here. I picked it up from one of my local libraries.

 Buddha Da cover

The book starts with a section narrated by ten-year-old Anne Marie, whose father Jimmy has just turned into a Buddhist. Hence the Buddha Da of the title. But the novel isn’t solely rendered from Anne Marie’s point of view. Her mother Liz and father Jimmy also have sections narrated by their personae. In fact overall the novel is more Liz’s story than either Anne Marie’s or Jimmy’s as the ramifications of Jimmy’s decision sequentially embarrass Anne Marie then alter the marriage and the relationships within the family.

The narration in all three voices is in a modern Glaswegian Scots, which some might find off-putting but expresses emotions and the human condition as well as any other mode. Along the way we are treated to several bons mots. Jimmy muses on his relationship with his brother, “There we are pissed oot wer heids sayin how much we love each other and we cannae dae it when we’re sober.” Anne Marie worries about the tensions the situation has created, “Everybody’s speakin tae me but naebdy’s tellin me anything. Happy faimlies.” Liz says of a woman overheard in the Botanic Gardens, “Confident they voices, they English voices. Mibbae she wasnae English right enough. Loads of times you thought they were English and they turned oot tae be Scottish but went tae private schools,” and she reflects on the central event of the novel, the one that prompts the resolution, “At the time it was the last thing on ma mind. But then whit has yer mind got tae dae wi it?” There is also a sly reference in one of Anne Marie’s sections to the similarities between Scotland and Tibet, “Nae flag on the map. Or languages of wer ain.” Is this a comment by Donovan on the comparative neglect of the voices she has chosen for her story? If so she has remedied that defect admirably. These feel like real people with lives as worth documenting as any others.

The CD Anne Marie makes with her friend Nisha places Buddha Da firmly in time though, just after the turn of the century before online videos became the medium of choice for self-promotion.

Buddha Da’s first few sentences perhaps try too hard and the one-liner at the end is really more suited to a short story than a novel so is it one of the best 100 Scottish books? Well, the themes and emotions it explores are not particular to Scots, the characters’ situations could occur almost anywhere but it is written in that uncompromising urban Scots vernacular, emphasising that the people’s language has expressive power equal to anything else.

Pedant’s corner:- The language Buddha Da is written in pretty much makes any criticism of the grammar otiose as it reflects usage but I still had an aversion to the likes of “ahd of” and “could of” and I’ve always hated the use of “mines” as a possessive form for the first person. Donovan could very well reply that that makes me a literary snob.
There was vist for visit, and I’ve never heard of anyone having a holiday for the Queen’s birthday.

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