“The Burning” by Laura Bates

Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

When I heard that Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism was writing a novel, I was really excited to read it. Her work is often discussed in the school in which I teach and the website and Twitter feed are used by pupils when looking at issues around sexism, social media, gender bias and peer pressure. I was keen to see whether a fictional approach would be able to tie in with the topics we’ve explored already.

Continue reading ““The Burning” by Laura Bates”

“Salt on Your Tongue” by Charlotte Runcie

 

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Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the review copy. 

I’m beginning to wonder if Canongate are even capable of publishing a bad book. 

Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie is a wonderful exploration of women and the sea. Interspersed with Runcie’s personal experiences as a woman and her relationships with women in her life, in particular her grandmother, are writings about myths, folkore and superstitions linked to the sea as well as history, art, religion, literature, culture and the natural world. There is a Scottish focus for much of the book, particularly the East Coast of Scotland. I grew up in the Highlands of Scotland very close to the sea and have always felt its lure. Some of my ancestors were fishermen and many relatives both current and distant still live by the sea. The author explores other coastal settings in Scotland familiar to me such as Skye, the Scottish Islands, Edinburgh, and the coastal regions around Fife as well as other settings around the UK and the world.   Continue reading ““Salt on Your Tongue” by Charlotte Runcie”

“How Scotland Works” by Andrew Conway

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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy.

As someone who has worked as a Social Studies teacher and currently works for local government in Scotland I was keen to see what this book offered to supplement my existing knowledge.

It covers an impressively vast amount of factual information and statistics about subjects including demographics, geography, language, immigration, energy, wealth and poverty, education, public spending, employment, exports and imports and political systems. Please note – this is not an exhaustive list! Continue reading ““How Scotland Works” by Andrew Conway”

“The Times Great Scottish Lives” by Magnus Linklater

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Thanks to Times Books and Netgalley for the advance reading copy.

I myself am Scottish so I thought it likely that I would find this collection of obituaries from The Times fascinating and the book largely lived up to my expectations. It was amusing to see the witty language used in some of the obituaries and also reading between the lines to see the thinly veiled denigrating commentary on some of the deceased (is this Victorian shade?). There is an eclectic group of people included, some very well known, others not so much. I was able to learn some interesting and illuminating facts about people I had heard of, but didn’t know much about e.g. Thomas Telford, a man who made a significant impact on the Highlands where I hail from. There were a number of people who piqued my curiosity enough that I immediately went to do further research on. These obituaries could be used as a starting point for a History teacher to use in a class project investigating past and current attitudes to these historical people.

There is however a noticeable lack of women, in the modern world this strikes me as a huge omission and jars a bit. I’d be curious to know if women were largely ignored when it came to getting a Times obituary write up in the first place, or whether the choice of obituaries included largely excluded women.  There is also a tenuous link to Scottishness for some of the inclusions (although.. “What makes a Scot?” is a question that has been and will continue to be debated). In his introduction, Linklater mentions Lewis Grassic Gibbon for example and I felt his lack of inclusion to be a mistake when considering some of the other inclusions. Linklater himself states that part of the reason for inclusions were how interesting and well written the obituary itself was, but it still struck me as an omission.

Linklater also mentions the fact that obituary writers were anonymous so as to not have their political allegiances held against them. Despite that, it’s often easy to infer the bias against some of the individuals, highlighted particularly in the rather short and scornful obituary of Keir Hardie. Again, this is something Linklater explains this in the introduction – that many now considered titans of the past were not considered so at the time of the writing. That said, in some cases it appears rather incongruous, in the case of beloved writers in particular. This works in reverse too, with the glowing obituary of Douglas Haig for example, a man whose reputation has been thoroughly trashed in the years since World War I.

Overall, a very interesting collection of obituaries that shine a light on some of the current opinions of the day. I think this book would be a great gift for someone interested in learning more about some of the well-known, and less well-known people from Scottish History.