Charles S . Low
Our next Book Club meeting (via Zoom) will be on Monday, November 8th at 5:30 pm. The Library Book Club normally meets on the second Monday in February, April, June, September, and November.
Please contact Cathy McCullough Les, our Book Club Chair, at email@example.com to receive your link for the meeting.
Our next book selection will be The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, by John Muir.
Synopsis: John Muir recounts in vivid detail the three worlds of his early life: Born in East Lothian, Scotland in 1838, he was raised by a fanatically strict, religious father who decided to move the family to America when Muir was eleven; the years 1849–1860 were spent labouring on the family’s grassroots farm in Wisconsin, working seventeen-hour days after which an exhausted yet inquisitive Muir secretly studied books on topics other than religion (!); and then at age 22, he went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study chemistry and botany. He decided to leave the university without a degree and completed the rest of his nature education in ‘the university of the wilderness’. He was truly a Scottish-American who made a huge difference.
Our last book selection was The Blackhouse (Lewis trilogy, #1) by Peter May.
Synopsis: From acclaimed author and television dramatist Peter May comes the first book in the Lewis Trilogy – a riveting mystery series set on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, a formidable and forbidding world where tradition rules and people adhere to ancient ways of life.
When a grisly murder occurs on the Isle of Lewis that has the hallmarks of a killing he’s investigating on the mainland, Edinburgh detective and native islander Fin Macleod is dispatched to see if the two deaths are connected. His return after nearly two decades not only represents a police investigation but a voyage into his own troubled past. As Fin reconnects with the places and people of his tortured childhood, he feels the island once again asserting its grip on his psyche. And every step forward in solving the murder takes him closer to a dangerous confrontation with the tragic events of the past that shaped – and nearly destroyed – Fin’s life. (from BookBrowse.com)
Meeting Notes and Review: Nine of us (one of our members was in Alaska and another in Scotland so they didn’t attend) met on September 20 and discussed the book: Blackhouse by Peter May. It’s a crime novel about an Edinburgh detective, Fin Macleod, who is assigned to investigate a murder on the Isle of Lewis because it may be related to one on the mainland. Fin grew up on Lewis. He knows the people – the victim is the bully from Fin’s school days – and he can speak Gaelic. Details of life on Lewis were integrated throughout the story: the guga hunt, the suppression of the Gaelic language, the old blackhouses vs the newer white houses, the isolation of the islands. The weather, the sea, and the land itself become characters in the story. The story was well-plotted and flashbacks to Fin’s past gave background to the present-day relationships of the islanders. This novel is available as an audiobook (free at many of your local libraries via the Libby app) and one of our group highly recommended it so that you can hear how the Gaelic is pronounced.
Blackhouse is the first book of the Lewis Trilogy (the other two are The Lewis Man and The Chessmen). Most of us liked it so much that we had already finished the trilogy and the rest said they were planning to finish it. Highly recommended.
You can obtain a copy from a local bookstore, library, or from Amazon/Smile: The Blackhouse: Murder comes to the Outer Hebrides (Lewis Trilogy 1).
Our third book club selection in 2021 was Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish.
Synopsis: The group had decided that for the next book we would do something light: Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish (the actors playing Jamie and Dougal in the Outlander TV series). The book is available in hardback, paperback, and Kindle editions and audio, narrated by Sam. Nancy Waters is about 1/3 of the way through the book and says it is a rollicking adventure around modern Scotland with two funny, naughty boys. We hope you enjoy it. Just so you know, the book is kind of a diary written along the way as Sam and Graham filmed their special series on Scotland, “Men in Kilts,” for Starzz. Go to the following link for a fun description of the book and the series: Clanlands: Why the Book is Worth Checking Out Too (outlandercast.com).
Meeting Notes and Review: We had a good time discussing Clanlands by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish at our June 14th meeting. Clanlands records their experiences filming the pilot for the Starz TV show, “Men in Kilts.” They visited historical sites such as Culloden, Glencoe, and Rob Roy’s (possible) gravesite; traveling in an RV which Sam – rather inexpertly – drove. We learned a bit about Sam and Graham’s personal histories and a bit about Scottish history. The affection between the two was obvious even though they spent a lot of the time ribbing each other (lattes or Sassenach whisky anyone?). This book is really for those who are fans of the Outlander series.
You can obtain a copy from a local bookstore, library, or from Amazon/Smile: Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other.
The second book club selection for 2021 was Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Synopsis: Faced with the choice between her harsh farming life and the seductive but distant world of books and learning, the spirited Chris Guthrie decides to remain in her rural community. But, as the devastation of the First World War leaves her life-and community-in tatters, she must draw strength from what she loves and endure, like the land she loves so intensely. Brutal and beautiful, passionate and powerful, Sunset Song is a moving portrait of a declining way of life and an inspirational celebration of the human spirit. And in Chris Guthrie, Grassic Gibbon has given us one of literature’s most unforgettable heroines. It has been voted Scotland’s favorite novel, beating titles including JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter story to the top spot (The Guardian, 18 October 2016).
Meeting Notes and Review: Nancy Waters filled in for Cathy for the April meeting and provides the following. We had a rather slim turnout for the April Book Club, but the discussion of Sunset Song was lively as usual! The general consensus was that the book deserved its reputation as a Scottish classic and was a good lesson on Scotland during WWI as the old way of life was making way for the new. Cathy had the new edition with an introduction by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who describes the book as a “masterpiece”; and “one of the finest literary accomplishments Scotland has ever known.”
In 2021, our first selection was The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. It is the first book in her Lymond Chronicles series.
Synopsis: Dunnett introduces her irresistible hero Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of elastic morals and dangerous talents whose tongue is as sharp as his rapier. In 1547 Lymond returned to his native Scotland, which was threatened by an English invasion. Accused of treason, Lymond leads a band of outlaws in a desperate race to redeem his reputation and save his land.
Meeting Notes and Review: On Monday, February 8th, six of us got together on Zoom to talk about Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings (Lymond Chronicles #1). We enjoyed the book but agreed it’s not a quick read. The story has many characters – some of them having more than one name and the main character uses disguises several times – and there are quotations in Scots, French, Spanish, and Latin. The story begins in 1547. Mary, Queen of Scots, is 5 years old. Francis Crawford of Lymond, the hero of the story, is an outlaw accused of treason. He is the dashing, witty, Errol Flynn-type, good at sword fighting and quick with a romantic poem for a lady. Lymond and his outlaw band cause a lot of trouble raiding and burning homes, but his ultimate aims are to clear his name and save Scotland from outsiders who wish to control it. Our group would definitely recommend this book (the first of 6 books in the series) and we’d also recommend some reading aids to make the experience even more enjoyable:
— Now You Have Dunnett: a blog devoted to the novels of Dorothy Dunnett (I never would have known that the name Buccleuch was pronounced Buck-Loo). http://nowyouhavedunnett.blogspot.com/2014/09/gok-opening-gambit.html
— The Ultimate Guide to Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings by Laura Caine Ramsey
Our last 2020 selection was The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. This book is one of the top 10 Scottish crime novels.
Synopsis: “This was the summer he discovered what he wanted–at a gruesome museum of criminology far off the beaten track of more timid tourists. Visions of torture inspired his fantasies like a muse. It would prove so terribly fulfilling.
The bodies of four men have been discovered in the town of Bradfield. Enlisted to investigate is criminal psychologist Tony Hill. Even for a seasoned professional, the series of mutilation sex murders is unlike anything he’s encountered before. But profiling the psychopath is not beyond him. Hill’s own past has made him the perfect man to comprehend the killer’s motives. It’s also made him the perfect victim.
A game has begun for the hunter and the hunted. But as Hill confronts his own hidden demons, he must also come face-to-face with an evil so profound he may not have the courage–or the power–to stop it…”
The Mermaids Singing is a chilling and taut psychological mystery.
The TV series Wire in the Blood is based on the Tony Hill books. This is the first book in the series.
It is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, Kindle, Nook, and as an Overdrive ebook – and from many libraries as well.
Meeting notes and review: “The book for December 2020, was Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid, the first book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. It won the Crime Writers of America Award for best crime novel of 1995 and the TV series Wire in the Blood is based on this series. The group decided that although the characters were well developed and we didn’t see the surprise ending coming, the very graphic descriptions of the murders were too much for most of us.”
The October 2020 selection was 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the first book in the “44 Scotland Street Series”.
Synopsis: “The residents and neighbors of 44 Scotland Street and the city of Edinburgh come to vivid life in these gently satirical, wonderfully perceptive serial novels, featuring six-year-old Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy—just ask his mother.”
Meeting notes and review: “We had a very nice zoom meeting last Monday, October 12, discussing 44 Scotland Street. It has quite a few “main” characters that continue through the series of – soon to be – 14 books. We all liked and felt sorry for Bertie and Angus, and Cyril were also high on the favored list. Irene and Bruce however tied for least favorite. I also wanted to put in a plug for Big Lou (maybe because she’s reading her way through an entire bookshop!). It was also interesting to see Scotland through the eyes of a Scot who plainly loves Edinburgh and the Scottish people.” Catherine McCullough Les