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Reviews – Scottish Review of Books



November 10, 2018
by Alan Taylor

History, Gore Vidal believed, was too important to be left to historians. He was particularly exercised by American academic historians whom he invariably prefaced with the word ‘fucking’. In Vidal’s opinion they had ruined history and turned readers off it by making it indigestible. Like Sir...


November 10, 2018
by Todd McEwen

As a child I thought little about history and politics; astronauts took up all my time. But after the wave of assassinations in the 1960s, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Watergate, and Iran/Contra, I decided that all the patriotic, narcissistic, self-ennobling rhetoric...

Name Dropping

November 10, 2018
by Colin Waters

In Against Oblivion, poet and critic Ian Hamilton posited only four twentieth-century English-language poets had a chance of achieving something like literary immortality: Hardy, Yeats, Eliot and Auden. The rest? Sooner or later time would Tippex out their names – even ones as familiar and diverse...


November 10, 2018
by Kristian Kerr

Writers writing about books has always made for compelling reading. Writers writing about their own books in private correspondence to their publisher tends to produce a particular kind of letter. There is passion, conviction, fluency, doubt, deference, sometimes frustration and anger, maybe even gratitude....

Review: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

September 13, 2018
by Rachel Walker

Transcription – the latest offering from bestselling author Kate Atkinson – is a work of complete duality. For a novel that is concerned with spies and espionage, with hidden identities and masked lives, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. Spy novels, after all, abound with duality.


August 11, 2018
by Lesley McDowell

The Poem is a daunting prospect. Some 732 pages long, published in hardback, with a sombre blue cover marked only by a bright orange triangle it both confers and threatens status and importance by its appearance as much as by its sheer weight. Inside there is a preface, then three sections, before finishing...


August 11, 2018
by Peter Ross

One bright morning this summer, in a flower-filled garden in Govan, I sat with a 50 year old man – John – as he gave an eyewitness account of hell. His mother had died. That loss, coming on top of sedimentary layers of pressure and anxiety, some of it to do with money worries, had caused a pit to...


August 11, 2018
by Susan Mansfield

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see that 1939 was not a good year to launch an art movement. But the members of the New Era Group, photographed by the Evening News in Edinburgh in June of that year, are full of optimism. Pictured holding a painting – an ambitious modern take on the Crucifixion...


August 11, 2018
by Brian Morton

My grandfather had two intellectual heroes. One was Sir Humphry Davy; the other was Alexander von Humboldt. The connection was mining, and specifically the fact that both men developed improved miners’ lamps. To my grandfather, the safety of his men was a greater human good than a cure for cancer. He...


August 11, 2018
by Rosemary Goring

Could there be a more frivolous title? Emblazoned in pink on the cover, Caroline’s Bikini suggests that what lies within is a high-summer romance, a story whose happy, sexy ending is assured. As with its section headings – Ready, Steady, Go! – it hints that within these pages a reader in search...