St Andrew's Day - The best books from Scotland
- Brian Donaldson
- 25 November 2011
Our editors pick highlights from Scottish books through history
First up, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). The ultimate doppelgänger novel, Robert Louis Stevenson’s fiction about the goodly doctor and his hairy malevolent side may be officially set in London but to all intents and purposes this is a tale about the dual nature of Edinburgh. RLS’ birthplace was then a city split between the poverty-stricken, crime-ravaged medieval section and the respectable Georgian area.
Lanark (1981) is a phantasmagorical mixture of realism and fantasy. Alasdair Gray began the novel as a student in the mid-50s with the epic four-parter finally published by Canongate in 1981. The tales of Duncan Thaw and Lanark, amid the dual settings of Glasgow and Unthank, are inexorably entwined and reflect upon each other in this modern vision of hell featuring lengthy footnotes, a prologue halfway through, an epilogue before the end and a po-mo pop-in from the author himself.
We conclude with Morvern Callar (1995). On first glimpse, it may not be the best festive present to come home to. But the self-mutilated corpse of her boyfriend under the twinkling Christmas tree lights provides Alan Warner’s heroine with a golden chance to pursue her own dreams of escaping the reality of dull smalltown life. And so she publishes his book under her own name and flees on the proceeds for a Mediterranean sabbatical to, sort-of, find her calling. An intense and layered debut from the Oban penman, it was turned into the inevitable soundtrack-heavy movie with Samantha Morton bringing Morvern to vivid life under the directorship of Lynne Ramsay.