The Dun Cow Rib

John Lister-Kaye
Format: Hardback Pages: 368 pages Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd Publication Date: 17/08/2017 Category: Memoirs ISBN: 9781786891457
by Alistair Moffat

Books of the Year 2017 – A Literary Advent Calendar

December 3, 2017 | by Alistair Moffat

We’ve asked Scotland’s leading writers, booksellers, festival directors and critics to pick one, or two, books — published this year or in the past — that they most enjoyed reading in 2017. There will be new selections every day until 21 December — so keep reading for great ideas about what to read next and visit your nearest high street bookshop to purchase your Christmas gifts! Alistair Moffat takes us forward on 3 December.

ALISTAIR MOFFAT, author, historian, Borders Festival director

Having enjoyed enormously John Lister-Kaye’s last two books, At the Water’s Edge and Gods of the Morning, I realized I knew little about him. His memoir of childhood and early adulthood, The Dun Cow Rib (Canongate, £20 hbk) reveals him as a collection of surprises. From a wealthy, even aristocratic background, he was in reality a wild child, a lover of nature, a seeker after knowledge — but not the sort taught in prep schools and public schools. In the jargon, he was sacked from at least one and only flourished when he could get out of classrooms and into the countryside as soon as possible.

This beautifully written book is also a loving tribute to his mother and the fortitude with which she bore life-threatening illness. Also attractive and fascinating is Lister-Kaye’s relationship with Gavin Maxwell and how that acquaintance led to his founding the field centre he and his wife run at Aigas, in a glen near the Beauly Firth. The crystal clarity, even purity, of Lister-Kaye’s writing makes this a joy from beginning to end.

Alistair Moffat is the author of The Hidden Ways: Scotland’s Forgotten Roads

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by Brian Morton