Here at the Scottish Writers’ Centre, we love Scottish literature of all kinds. New or old, fiction or poetry, lyrical or straight to the point. But new writing certainly – and deservedly – gets a lot of attention on our blog, so today we are celebrating Scottish classics. Read on to find out some of our favourites…
Sunset Song – Lewis Grass Gibbon
This is a Scottish classic that unfailingly provokes debate. For every reader who has devoured Sunset Song and loved Chris’s discovery of the surrounding landscape and her own sense of self, there is another reader who maintains that this seminal 1932 novel is one of the worst books they’ve ever read. (I’ve met many people who have said those exact words.) Personally, I’m a fan – but love it or loathe it, this is one Scottish classic that is an absolute must-read.
The Living Mountain – Nan Shepherd
Consistently hailed as a masterpiece of nature writing, The Living Mountain is Shepherd’s love letter to the Caingorm mountains which she regularly explored. Beautifully written and incredibly poetic, this philosophical and radical journey into the heart of the mountains argues that mountains are not to be conquered, but to be discovered, slowly and fully. One to savour.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
Could we compile a list of Scottish classics and leave out Muriel Spark? The witty and inventive writer is currently experiencing a renaissance due to 2018 marking the centenary of her birth. And what better time to rediscover Spark’s delightfully unique novels? As the most well-known of her works, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is an obvious candidate for classic Scottish novels, but it’s well worth looking into her surprisingly prolific back catalogue.
The Trick is to Keep Breathing – Janice Galloway
Another modern classic, Janice Galloway’s debut novel, published in 1989, is a book that is well worth revisiting: this bleak, unconventional and keenly observed tale of a woman struggling to cope with clinical depression is a testament to the power that ‘the everyday’ holds in the very best of novels.
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
An intriguing mixture of crime fiction, psychological drama and the gothic, with an additional hint of meta-fiction, all disguised as a found document: what’s not to love? The author of this early nineteenth-century novel is unknown compared to his contemporary Walter Scott, but there’s no doubt that Hogg’s work has the most to offer modern audiences. For a haunting, eerie and compelling tale of murder and demons, look no further.
Words by Rachel Walker