August 12, 2017
by Harry McGrath

No country has been described in terms of another to the extent that Canada was by Scotland. From the Dunbar area of Vancouver to Inverness in Nova Scotia, Scots festooned Canada with familiar toponyms. One relatively small corner of southern Alberta, for instance, has a Calgary, a Banff, a Canmore...

Back In The USSR

August 12, 2017
by David Robinson

Back in the days when newspapers had money and could afford foreign correspondents, it was often felt that the best thing to do with these aristocrats of the trade was to shift them around every few years. That way, it was felt, they wouldn’t ‘go native’. As Angus Roxburgh makes clear in Moscow...

Another Time, Another Place

August 11, 2017
by Rosemary Goring

Asked to describe her upbringing, in an interview in later life, Jessie Kesson spoke of her ‘accidental’ birth in Inverness Workhouse. Her mother was not married, which was disgrace enough in 1916, and no doubt to escape the local gossips she had hightailed it to the city. As a result, her child,...

Who’d Be a Man?

August 11, 2017
by Zoë Strachan

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, sang Tammy Wynette. I’d like to think that her lyrics reach their emotional apotheosis when delivered at West of Scotland karaoke nights. That is not meant as an ironic statement, nor do I suspect is it a phenomenon strictly limited to the West of Scotland, simply...

A Long Weekend In Amsterdam

August 11, 2017
by Ronald Frame

Perhaps you can judge a book by its cover. In this case black-and-white with just a little blue on the front. The lettering for the title and author is unadorned caps. A couple in late middle age, both in overcoats and hats and the woman holding an umbrella against the sleet (the man stands a step or...


August 11, 2017
by Colin Waters

In the fifth volume of his My Struggle series, on the last page, Karl Ove Knausgaard describes what he did immediately after a final, shattering meeting with his first wife before sepa rating: ‘I was on the night train to Oslo, everything I did on the journey was to avoid thinking.

Only the Lonely

June 10, 2017
by Dani Garavelli

When traumatic memories from Eleanor Oliphant’s past lay siege to the fortress she has built around her life, she reaches behind her mattress for a copy of Jane Eyre, a book she has read so often its edges are ‘rounded and softened with years of handling’. Loneliness is often portrayed as a modern...

Remembering Yevtushenko

June 9, 2017
by Allan Massie

It is a bit disconcerting to read of the death of someone you didn’t realize was still alive. Actually I had no reason to think of Yevgeny Yevtushenko as dead. It’s just that I hadn’t heard of him for a long time. I suppose it should have been no surprise to learn that he had been living and teaching...

Flowers of Scotland

June 9, 2017
by David Black

Some books, like old sepia calotypes, have a way of freezing a moment in time. The scenes captured by Victorian photographers were largely unpeopled, thanks to their long exposure times. A child may pose on a doorstep, face screwed up against the sun, a fishwife may stand guarding her creel; otherwise...

Small Island

March 3, 2017
by Dani Garavelli

Call it serendipity, but even as Annalena McAfee’s new book Hame – an exploration of language and identity centred on a fictional island poet – was being posted out to reviewers, the country was, once again, getting itself all het up about the alleged politicisation of the Scots tongue.