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Reviews – Page 2 – Scottish Review of Books



August 10, 2018
by Harry McGrath

James Buchan’s biography of John Law is a thing of biblical proportions but it still comes with a bonus card inside. One side of the card has a series of short hymns to Buchan’s abilities as a writer and his facility for making difficult subjects accessible. The other has some ‘facts about John...


June 2, 2018
by Susan Mansfield

In the whirlwind of Freshers’ Week at Edinburgh College of Art in 1961, Helen Percy, 18 years old and newly arrived from Golspie, attended a concert, ‘a wild, orgiastic, anarchic charade’, in which a pianist, draped in a fishing net, with a butcher’s bone on a rope around his waist, ‘thundered...


June 2, 2018
by Cal Flynn

In William Atkin’s The Moor, a heady brew of literary criticism, topography and nature writing, our attention was directed to that most enigmatic and evocative of landscapes. It is a stark place – clean-lined, curving, emptied of landmarks – the perfectly bleak backdrop of that classic work of...


June 2, 2018
by Harry Ritchie

Brexit. Trump. Putin. The Chinese. Terrorism. Fundamentalism. Et bloody cetera. You’ve got to say, the late teens of the twenty-first century do not look like a great time for the whole rational-progressive project. Endarkenment Now seems the much more accurate title for this book, given that the...


June 2, 2018
by Alasdair McKillop

Just imagine what your family members would be saying if you’d been a decade in the dying and there was still no prospect of you doing the decent thing. People say very bad things indeed about the Labour Party so does that mean it’s taking its time getting into the ground? The Daily Telegraph columnist...


June 2, 2018
by Rosemary Goring

Were John Ruskin alive, you would hear him cheering at the Court of Session decision in March against Dr Reiner Brach, a steel trader, who wanted to keep his Highland estate off bounds to the public. To that end he had erected high gates and warning signs to prevent their access. As Ruskin wrote, ‘of...

Endangered Species

February 10, 2018
by Kirsty Gunn

The essay is an attractive option for addressing a huge range of subjects in a kind of prose that may be casual and simple, or scientific, ornate or allusive. It has no rules. It is demotic or rhetorical, compact or discursive, or all of these. Its only requirement is, as the word suggests – from...

For Those In Peril

February 10, 2018
by John MacLeod

You have almost certainly never heard of the Tuscania. Nor another liner, the Otranto. I certainly had not. Yet, in 1918 and as the Great War wound up to its denouement, both these British troopships – laden with hundreds of American conscript soldiers – went down, and with great loss of life; even...

Wooing Jimmy

February 10, 2018
by David Torrance

A few years ago, when the Scottish National Party was still riding high in the polls, I was chatting to a thoughtful Nationalist about the party’s tendency to co-opt figures from the Labour movement. I mentioned the former Scottish Trades Union Congress president Campbell Christie, who had passed...

The Debatable Land

February 10, 2018
by Harry McGrath

When I was a school boy in the Scottish Border town of Galashiels, the block of flats next door to us was reserved for members of the local police force. There were six flats in total, a generous allotment for a smallish town with a low crime rate. I could almost count the minutes before an officer...