2013 Saltire Society Literary Awards Shortlist
2013 Scottish Book of the Year Shortlist
Credit: Euan Myles
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson Doubleday
The question posed on the cover of Life after Life asks: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ Kate Atkinson’s bold and inventive novel turns on this central question, following Ursula Todd from her birth in a snowstorm in London in 1910 through the tumultuous events of the first half of the 20th century, with the Blitz in London as its cornerstone. Pledged a series of lives in the novel, Ursula Todd is given a new set of circumstances in each of them: in each she can seek to live a better life, protect the people she loves and redeem her past mistakes. But can she and does she? This is an immensely clever, thought-provoking and completely absorbing novel. It is hard to put it down and yet it is sometimes difficult to understand what it is really about. You can read it in your own way though and find in it infinite layers of meaning.
Credit: Marianne Mitchelson
The Professor of Truth by James Robertson Hamish Hamilton/Penguin
In The Professor of Truth James Robertson has taken several risks: going back over ground which many people will find painful; writing about a case which many regard as still unproven at best; trying to imagine himself into the minds of those connected with the Lockerbie disaster. To say he has this done well would be an understatement. The book is a product of imagination, but it runs parallel enough to the facts to ensure that it is a riveting read. And an often disturbing one.
Empire Antarctica by Gavin Francis Chatto and Windus
This is a book which goes far beyond marvelling at the life of penguins or even the dazzling world of Antarctic ice. Gavin Francis willingly signed up for prolonged winter seclusion in that world, and came to learn about it, and himself, more than he could have imagined. And he writes about it sparely, knowledgably, beautifully. You can picture the empire for yourself every page.
Mairi Dhall agus Sgeulachdan by Donnchadh Macgilliosa Clar
This is the author’s fifth book, and his most substantial yet. In superbly rich and poetic prose (and occasionally poetry) his short stories evoke his native Ness in Lewis with tenderness and humour. This is the work of a writer who must now be considered a modern master.
Something Like Happy by John Burnside Jonathan Cape
John Burnside’s second collection of short stories, Something Like Happy, deals with the central theme of the despairing and the disappointed, lives in which people are trapped by circumstances or human failings or even by the haphazard events of living. What marks these stories out though is the redemptive quality that can be found in each of them as people find hope in sometimes the smallest and most inconsequential signs of the familiar. In ‘The Cold Outside’, a lorry driver, Bill Harley, finds that his cancer has returned and goes driving aimlessly in the dark night in a snowstorm and to a chance meeting with a young man dressed as a woman who, it emerges, has had a beating. As Bill finally makes his way home, he momentarily has the impulse to drive off again into the endless solitude of the blizzard but instead he returns indoors ‘to the living room, where the curtains were already drawn and the night was nothing more than a story to be told by a warm fire, with the radio humming quietly in the background, so the world felt familiar and more or less happy’. These are beautifully crafted, lyrical and moving stories.
Looking for Mrs Livingstone by Julie Davidson Saint Andrew Press
In Looking for Mrs. Livingstone Julie Davidson performs a skilful balancing act between the scanty information we have on Mary Livingstone?s life and career, in Africa and beyond, and her own travels in Africa, running back over the ground that the Livingstones covered in often unimaginably difficult conditions, and evoking the many sides to Mary Livingstone?s story, someone caught in circumstances over which she had often no control. It?s a moving and continuously gripping fusion of fact and travelogue.
Credit: Sarah Wood
Artful by Ali Smith Penguin Press
Capricious, witty, strange, and full of human yearning – Artful is vintage Ali Smith. Its genre-busting form brings together a ghost story, a set of half-written lecture notes, and the essay in a rich, wilful and delightful mix. Artful – and wonderful.
2013 Research Book of the Year Award Shortlist
A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable
by Ian Crofton
Visions of Britain, 1730-1830
by Sebastian Mitchell
Nancy Brysson Morrison: A Literary Life
by Mary Seenan
Kennedy and Boyd
The Sunlit Summit - The Life of W H Murray
by Robin Lloyd-Jones