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The Great Wood

by Jim Crumley

The Great Wood of Caledon -- the historic native forest of Highland Scotland that emerged after the last glacial period -- has a popular image of an impassable, sun-snuffing shroud, a Highlands-wide jungle infested by wolf, lynx, bear, beaver, wild white cattle, wild boar and wilder painted men.

Jim Crumley shines a light into the darker corners of the Great Wood to reevaluate some of the questionable elements of its reputation and to assess the possibilities of its partial resurrection into something like a national forest. The book threads a path among surviving strongholds of native woodland, beginning with a soliloquy by the Fortingall Yew, the one tree in Scotland that can say of the heyday of the Great Wood 5,000 years ago: "I was there." The journey is enriched by vivid wildlife encounters, a passionate and poetic account that binds the slow dereliction of the past to an optimistic future.


by Annalena McAfee

Mhairi McPhail, a young American writer/curator, flees a crumbling marriage in New York and travels with her nine-year-old daughter to one of the remote islands in the north of Scotland, birthplace of her grandfather.

Commissioned to set up a museum there and to write the biography of the island's celebrated poet and chronicler, Grigor McWatt, The Bard of Fascaray, McPhail is slowly drawn in by the complicated life she is uncovering and writing about, while at the same time being slowly transformed by the ferocity and power of the island.

Who was the celebrated poet Grigor McWatt? What was his past? As Mhairi struggles to adapt to her island life and put her troubles behind her, she begins to unearth the astonishing secret history of the poet, regarded by many as the custodian of Fascaray's -- and Scotland's -- soul.

In a rich novel of invented island life, McAfee interweaves extracts from Mhairi's journal entries, the writings of McWatt and tales of Fascaray itself into a resonant, compelling, dimensional narrative that explores identity, love, belonging and the universal quest for "hame" -- the Scots word for "home."

The Book of Iona, An Anthology

edited by Robert Crawford

This anthology is comprised of creative prose, non-fiction and poetry that ranges from St. Columba to the present day, all linked by the Isle of Iona, "the cradle of Christianity" in Scotland. A celebration of one of Scotland's most beautiful islands, this wonderful collection has broad historical and contemporary appeal. Full of surprises, it will delight every lover of Iona and all lovers of literature.

Max and Zap at the Museum

by Molly MacPherson (author) and Natasha Rimmington (illustrator)

Max is visiting a museum in Scotland with his toy robot Zap when something amazing happens. He tries on some magic armour and the whole museum comes to life...including Zap! Mary, Queen of Scots needs Max and Zap's help to find her missing jewels. Can they follow the clues in a museum full of real-life dinosaurs, animals and characters from history? Inspired by actual museum exhibits, this lively book whisks young readers on an exciting journey through Scotland's fascinating past. Natasha Rimmington brings history alive with fun and vibrant illustrations.

subscribe Full reviews of these books are available in the Autumn 2018 issue of Scottish Life.

Previously Reviewed Books