Reading list

7 Scottish classics from north of the border

Inspired by a distinctly Scottish flavour, we've gathered 7 classic novels from north of the border that you simply must read. Sample their opening paragraphs below.

Paradise

A. L. Kennedy

'How it happens is a long story, always. And I apparently begin with being here: a boxy room that’s too wide to be cosy, its dirty ceiling hung just low enough to press down a broad, unmistakable haze of claustrophobia. To my right is an over-large clock of the kind favoured by playschools and homes for the elderly, the kind with bold, black numbers and cartoon-thick hands that effectively shout what time it is whether you’re curious or not. It shows 8.42 and counting. Above, is a generalised sting of yellow light.'

 

Swing Hammer Swing!

Jeff Torrington

'Something really weird was happening in the Gorbals – from the battered hulk of the Planet Cinema in Scobie Street, a deepsea diver was emerging. He hesitated, bamboozled maybe by the shimmering fathoms of light, the towering rockfaces of the snow-coraled tenements. After a few moments the diver allowed the vestibule door to swing closed behind him then, taking small steps, he came out onto the pavement which in the area sheltered by the sagging canopy bore only a thin felting of snow. Up the centre of this quiet little grave for privileged snowflakes desecrating feet had trudged a pathway which shone with a seal-like lustre. One person though – a young girl to judge from the footprints – had ignored the conventional route, and skipped off into the untrodden snow where she'd left the steps of an unknown dance sparkling in her wake.'

 

The Dumb House

John Burnside

'No one could say it was my choice to kill the twins, any more than it was my decision to bring them into the world. Each of these events was an inevitability, one thread in the fabric of what might be called destiny, for want of a better word – a thread that neither I nor anyone else could have removed without corrupting the whole design. I chose to perform the laryngotomies, if only to halt their constant singing – if singing is what you would call it – that ululation that permeated my waking hours, and entered my sleep through every crevice of my dreams. At the time, though, I would have said it was a logical act, another step in the research I had begun almost four years before – the single most important experiment that a human being can perform: to find the locus of the soul, the one gift that sets us apart from the animals; to find it, first by an act of deprivation and then, later, by a logical and necessary destruction.'

 

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Janice Galloway

'I watch myself from the corner of the room sitting in the armchair, at the foot of the stairwell. A small white mooon shows over the fencing outside. No matter how dark the room gets I can always see. It looks emptier when I put the lights on so I don't do it if I can help it. Brightness disagrees with me: it hurts my eyes, wastes electricity and encourages moths, all sorts of things. I sit in the dark for a number of reasons.'

 

Morvern Callar

Alan Warner

'He’d cut His throat with the knife. He’d near chopped off His hand with the meat cleaver. He couldnt object so I lit a Silk Cut. A sort of wave of something was going across me.There was fright but I’d daydreamed how I’d be.

He was bare and dead face-down on the scullery lino with blood round.The Christmas tree lights were on then off.You could change the speed those ones flashed at. Over and over you saw Him stretched out then the pitch dark with His computer screen still on.'

 

Whisky Galore

Compton Mackenzie

'From the bridge of the Island Queen, which three times a week made the voyage between Obaig and the outer islands of the Hebrides, Captain Donald MacKechnie gazed across a smooth expanse of grey sea to where the rugged outline of Great Todday stood out dark against a mass of deepening cloud in which a dull red gash showed that the sun was setting behind it. Captain MacKechnie muttered an order in Gaelic to the steersman, and the mailboat changed her course to round the south-west point of the island that was her next port of call.'

 

Waverley

Walter Scott

'The title of this work has not been chosen without the grave and solid deliberation, which matters of importance demand from the prudent. Even its first, or general denomination, was the result of no common research or selection, although, according to the example of my predecessors, I had only to seize upon the most sounding and euphonic surname that English history or topography affords, and elect it at once as the title of my work, and the name of my hero.'

 

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