Thanks to Long and Short Reviews for hosting the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge.
This week’s challenge is books set in my city or state! I live in a town in Scotland near Glasgow. There aren’t a lot of books set where I live, though I’m going to mention a couple at the end. I’ve chosen to recommend a few books from around Scotland instead – I could have mentioned many, many more, but this should be plenty to be getting on with!
SUNSET SONG – LEWIS GRASSIC GIBBON
Sunset Song is one of my favourite novels of all time. It’s the story of Chris Guthrie, a girl whose family live in the north-east of Scotland (around Aberdeen) in a fictional village called Kinraddie. It’s a bit of a bildungsroman, tracking Chris from her girlhood, losing her mother in a tragic situation, through growing up with a violent father and experiencing the changes in the farming community caused by the First World War. The story is written in Scots dialect and it might take a bit of getting used to for some folk, but that to me is the beauty of the novel. Chris is a deeply sympathetic character without ever getting into simpering moppet territory. She’s extremely strong and weathers the things that life brings her.
I will say that this book portrays domestic abuse both of women and children and if this is a trigger or upsetting topic for you, you might want to be careful about reading this novel.
DAFT WEE STORIES – LIMMY
If you know any Scottish comedy, you probably know Limmy. He’s probably best known for Limmy’s Show, a BBC sketch show that really showcases the kind of weird humour that’s also found in his two collections of short stories. You could try a couple of his sketches on Youtube to see whether you think you’d like it. I love these stories because they have a Scottish backdrop, but it’s nothing like the traditional kilts and bagpipes view of Scotland. The stories are strange, funny, and use a lot of the Glaswegian dialect that I grew up with (although I was born in North Lanarkshire, my dad was Glaswegian and I lived in Glasgow for a long time). It also includes one of my favourite poems of all time, regarding chicken nuggets.
HINGS – CHRIS MCQUEER
This is a bit like the little brother of the above and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. The stories are even more Glasgow specific and I love the use of dialect throughout, the absolute intentionality of it. The stories are very very strange and funny, and they contain some fantastic visuals, as showcase by the BBC short film adaptations of them narrated by the author. The author also has a fantastic Twitter presence, definitely worth a follow.
THIS IS MEMORIAL DEVICE/THE YOUNG TEAM
Confession: I haven’t read either of these yet, but I do own them! I wanted to mention these because they are both set in the Lanarkshire area that I’m from, with TIMD being directly set in Airdrie – I’m not sure whether TYT is as specific as that. TIMD is a sort-of less-ridiculous Airdrie-based Spinal Tap in literary form – that is, it’s a fictionalised non-fiction style story of a band coming up in the 80s. I’ve just flicked through the first few pages and I’ve already seen the names of several places and streets that I’m very familiar with so I’m really excited to start that one at some point in the future. TYT is in full Lanarkshire dialect, which I love because I can really hear it in my head. It’s about the
I’ve mentioned dialect a few times in this post and it’s something I think is really important and something that in my own fiction writing I try to use a lot. I think people who see their accents and dialect represented in media all the time really can’t understand how important it is to see your speech patterns replicated in books, on television, especially when you’re constantly told that the way that you naturally speak makes you sound less intelligent, and less respectable, and less classy, and even inherently funny! It’s odd because although from my blog you can probably get a sense of some of my speech patterns, but you would not be able to tell what my accent is like and the dialect I use at all. I’m used to altering my speech when talking to people from outside of Scotland and at work to seem more “professional” and seeing the way that I speak with my friends and family in books, TV, and film is always something that I appreciate and it’s something that is slowly becoming more common.
I’m also aware I haven’t mentioned any books that aren’t by (as far as I’m aware) cis/straight/white men. I try not to do lists that don’t at least include some women because I feel like when I do it’s not truly representative of any particular genre or category. In this case, I’ve read a number of books by Scottish female authors, but not many that were explicitly set in Scotland. I’m aware that a lot of my reading over the years also hasn’t been diverse in terms of . I’m trying to read more works by authors whose experiences and backgrounds are different than mine, including own voices works by people of colour, LGBTQ+ authors, and authors with different experiences with disability and mental illness than I have. Because I’m trying to read a lot of my backlist it’s taking a while for the titles I’m picking up to bleed through into my current TBR, but it is something that’s on my mind and it’s something that I care about. I think I can always do better in this area, and I will strive to do so throughout building up my blogging.