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    January 2022
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    Forgotten treasures and new gems in my Scottish Library!

    “The only pleasure in redecorating or moving house

    comes from stumbling across books that I’d almost forgotten I owned.”

    John Burnside

    As we are going to move soon from our house in the South of Bordeaux to a new home situated in a lovely corner of Périgord Noir, I am making boxes and boxes of books and it made me smile when I fell on John *Burnside’s quote. So true!

    Dordogne Limeuil Jardins Panoramiques © 2018 Scotiana

    Dordogne Limeuil Jardins Panoramiques © 2018 Scotiana

    The Jardins panoramiques de Limeuil, one of our favourite places in Dordogne… from there you can see the junction of River Dordogne and River Vézère…

    Dordogne Limeuil Jardins Panoramiques © 2018 Scotiana

    Dordogne Limeuil Jardins Panoramiques © 2018 Scotiana

    Just have a look at the weather vane on the turret roof, as seen from the Jardins panoramiques… that’s a dragon, like on the arms of Sarlat-la-Canéda (Périgord Noir’s capital)… it’s not exactly the same as the dragon featuring on the arms of Wales 😉

    But, now, back to our subject… books!

    Andrew Lang's Rainbow Fairy Books Folio collection © 2014 Scotiana


    ‘Books!’ said Tuppence.

    She produced the word rather with the effect of a bad-tempered explosion.

    ‘What did you say ?’ said Tommy.

    Tuppence looked across the room at him.

    ‘I said “books”, she said.

    ‘I see what you mean,’ said Thomas Beresford.

    In front of Tuppence were three large packing cases. From each of them various books had been extracted. The larger part of them were still filled with books. ‘

    It’s incredible,’ said Tuppence.

    ‘You mean the room they take up?’


    ‘Are you trying to put them all on the shelves?’ (…)

    (Postern of Fate – Agatha Christie – 1973)

    Unpacking the books, as Tuppence is doing in the above extract, will be the next step for us. Now, we’re just packing them and it is at least as difficult a task: sorting and packing books you’ve collected for years and which look so great on the shelves of your library! A number of them seem to be as reluctant to enter a box as as I am to put them into it, big dusty volumes let themselves fall on the floor when you try to disloge them from the highest parts of your library. In fact,  everything seems to be reluctant to move from our house… books, family souvenirs, the beloved teddy bears and also the baskets of multi-coloured  balls of yarn looking forward to meeting my needles, and I’m only talking about the smallest things … Iain and Margaret, who perfectly know the problem, have given us some useful piece of advice and fortunately, as underlined by Mr Burnside, moving house gives me the opportunity to fall upon forgotten treasures… especially Scottish treasures. 🙂 My favourite Scottish books will certainly be among the last to leave my shelves. Then they will be carefully packed in special boxes meant to remain close at hand there, in my temporary working place, until our new library be organized, which may well take some time…

    Jules Renard's quote about unread books

    Jules Renard’s quote about unread books

    Now, let us see what I have in my Scottish library. Over the years, I have collected a number of wonderful books about Scotland’s landscapes and wildlife, great houses, castles and gardens, also about Scottish history (historical novels by Nigel Tranter as well as books of history by Alistair Moffat for example), poetry (Robert Burns, Norman MacCaig, Hugh MacDiarmid…), fairy tales (Andrew Lang), folk tales (Wilson’s Tales of the Border, Fiona MacLeod), myths and legends, fantasy books (Harry Potter series) and travel books. There are also a number of dictionaries and reference volumes. OUPS ! I was going to forget my detective novels (Iain Rankin, Martin Walker, Christopher Brookmyre…). An eclectic choice !

    Each of my favourite Scottish authors has his devoted book shelf : George Mackay Brown, Iain Crichton Smith, Kenneth White (a great Scottish-French author living in France), J.M. Barrie, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott, James Hogg, Conan Doyle, Muriel Spark, Mandy Haggith, Alexander McCall Smith…  also Neil Gunn though I’ve still not read more than one or two of his books… I must admit that a great number of books are still on my reading list but as Jules Renard well said : When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.

    As you can see, it won’t be easy for me to pack my books, so many books, and to find them a place in our new house which happens to be smaller than our present house (smaller house but greater garden ;-)).

    Now, though I’m only beginning to pack the books of my Scottish library I’ve already found a number of forgotten treasures. One of them is Scottish Fantasy Literature by Colin Manlove. I begin with this very interesting book because I’ve found in it a link between most of my books and also new ideas to understand Scotland better.  I will come back to that in my future posts for there is much to say about that…


    Scottish Fantasy Literature Colin Manlove Canongate Academic 1994

    Scottish Fantasy Literature Colin Manlove Canongate Academic 1994

    “For Scotland

    Wherever it may be.”

    (Colin Manlove‘s dedication ;-))


    At last Scottish Literary criticism’s long held bias towards realism finds a counter-balance in this, the first major study of Scottish fantasy.

    Establishing the existence of a strong yet largely unrecognised genre in Scottish writing, Colin Manlove mines a rich seam through authors such as :

    • James Hogg,
    • Thomas Carlyle
    • George MacDonald
    • Margaret Oliphant
    • Robert Louis Stevenson
    • Andrew Lang
    • ‘Fiona MacLeod’,
    • J.M. Barrie,
    • Neil Gunn,
    • David Lindsay,
    • George Mackay Brown,
    • Alasdair Gray
    • Margaret Elphinstone.

    Scottish fantasy embraces some of the best-known of Scottish fiction, its sources deep in the Scottish Character and desire for national identity, its power and subtlety a vital link in Scotland’s cultural development.

    Colin Nicholas Manlove, pioneering literary scholar, author of the first and most sustained serious work on fantasy, including Harry Potter. Born: 4 May 1942 in Falkirk. Died: 1 June 2020, aged 78

    Colin Manlove was a Scottish literary critic who wrote books on fantasy literature before anybody else did. His first, Modern Fantasy: Five Studies, appeared in 1975. Over nearly half a century, Manlove demonstrated the central contribution fantasy has made to both the English and the Scottish literary traditions, despite an entrenched critical bias towards realism.

    Short Stories

    There are many short stories books in my library, all kinds of short stories by any author. That’s simply because I’ve always loved short stories. One other good reason is because my native language is French and that’s easier for me to discover Scottish (and more largely British) authors through short texts.

    Below is a selection of my books of Scottish short stories :


    The Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories Douglas Gunn 1995

    The Oxford Book of Scottish Short Stories Douglas Gunn 1995

    This book is the 1st edition (1995) of  the  Oxford Scottish Short Stories selected  and introduced by Douglas Dunn. It’s abeautiful hardback  edition with a picture of the very atmospheric landscape of Glencoe on its cover. I also have the paperback edition published in 2001. I have a lot of books of short stories and ghost stories in my library, also travel books simply because they are the literary genre I prefer.

    There are three “traditional stories” and 39 short stories in the book and today I’ve selected six titles plus the three traditional stories, already read or to be read soon 😉

    • Traditional Stories
      • The Battle of the Birds
      • The Wee Bannock
      • Death in a nut
    • James Hogg (1770-1835)
      • The Cameronian Preacher’s Tale
    • Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
      • The Two Drovers
    • Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
      • A Lodging for the Night
      • Thrawn Janet
      • from Fables
    • J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)
      • A Literary Club
    • George Mackay Brown (1921-1996)
      • Andrina
    • Iain Chrichton Smith (1928-1998)
      • An American Sky
    The Penguin Book of Short Stories JF Hendry 2011

    The Penguin Book of Short Stories JF Hendry 2011

    My present selection to read or re-read (I always re-read my favourite texts)

    • George Mackay Brown : ‘The Story of Jorkel Hayforks’ (George Mackay Brown did write many wonderful short stories)
    • R.B. Cunninghame-Graham : ‘Mirahuano’
    • Neil M. Gunn : ‘The Old Man’
    • Neil McCallum : ‘A House in Sicily’
    • Muriel Spark : ‘The House of the Famous Poet’


    The New Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories by Iain Murray 1983

    The New Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories by Iain Murray 1983

    My selection of stories :

    • James Hogg : ‘The Brownie of the Black Haggs’
    • Sir Walter Scott : ‘The Two Drovers’
    • Margaret Oliphant : ‘The Open Door’
    • R.P. Cunninghame-Graham : ‘Beattock for Moffat’
    • John Buchan : ‘The Outgoing of the Tide’
    • Neil M. Gunn : ‘The Tax-Gatherer’
    • George Mackay Brown : ‘The Wireless Set’
    • Iain Crichton Smith : ‘Survival Without Error’ (Iain Crichton Smith and George Mackay Brown are my favourite Scottish authors. Their writing is at the origin of our first travels to Scotland…)

    While sorting my books I fell on Margaret Elphinstone’s 1991 edition of An Apple from a Tree… so far I had not read any book by this popular Scottish author… and as it often happens the case these days I opened the book and began to read, beginning by the contents as I always do :

    • Green Man
    • Islands of Sheep
    • Conditions of Employment
    • The Cold Well
    • An Apple from a Tree
    • A Life of Glory


    An Apple from a Tree - Margaret Elphinstone - The Women's Press 1991

    An Apple from a Tree – Margaret Elphinstone – The Women’s Press 1991

    I read… and read… discovering a new Scottish writer…  so far I’ve just read two stories : ‘Green Man’ and ‘An apple from a Tree’ but I equally love them: the subjects, the author’s style… quite strange stories, maybe the strangest I’ve ever read but YES I do love them. I’m happy to know I have still four stories to read in the book…  better still I’ve discovered in my library another book by Margaret Elphinstone , still unread : The Sea Road… a novel this time.

    The Sea Road Margaret Elphinstone 2000

    The Sea Road Margaret Elphinstone 2000

    A haunting, compelling historical novel, The Sea Road is a daring re-telling of the 11th-century Viking exploration of the North Atlantic from the viewpoint of one extraordinary woman. Gudrid lives at the remote edge of the known world, in a starkly beautiful landscape where the sea is the only connection to the shores beyond. It is a world where the old Norse gods are still invoked, even as Christianity gains favour, where the spirits of the dead roam the vast northern ice-fields, tormenting the living, and Viking explorers plunder foreign shores.

    Taking the accidental discovery of North America as its focal point, Gudrid’s narrative describes a multi-layered voyage into the unknown, all recounted with astonishing immediacy and rich atmospheric detail.

    Margaret Elphinstone is the author of eight novels, including The Incomer (1987), A Sparrow’s Flight (1989), Islanders (1994), The Sea Road (2000), Hy Brasil (2002), Voyageurs (2003) and Light (2006). She has also had published short stories, poetry and two books on organic gardening. Her next book, And Some There Be, will be published by Canongate in 2009. She lives in Glasgow and teaches at the University of Strathclyde.


    Slightly Foxed n°4 Winter 2004

    Slightly Foxed n°4 Winter 2004

    In a big box and on my shelves, I’ve collected the precious articles, booklets and books so kindly offered to us by Iain & Margaret, Janice and my family… they are many of them dealing with a great variety of subjects. Indeed, I plan to re-read them during the long winter evenings we’re going to spend in our new home, in Périgord.

    Among so many little gems sent by our dear friends, I’ve chosen a back issue of a quite interesting literary English magazine entitled Slightly Foxed.  The funny cover of this issue reflects the spirit of the magazine.  It was sent to us by Iain and Margaret for an article it contains about George Mackay Brown. Our friends know I’m a great admirer of the popular Orkney bard.  The quite interesting article, written by Christopher Rush, is entitled ‘Orkney’s Prospero’…

    “Every Thursday morning for twenty years and more, the Orkney writer George Mackay Brown cleared a breakfast-table space among the teacups and the marmalade and, sitting with his elbows among the crumbs, picked up a cheap biro and jotted down 400 words on a notepad. It was a letter to the local newspaper, “The Orcadian”, for publication the following Thursday, and as such was written to entertain an island community of fewer than 2,000 souls. Through the small window of the simple council house – just a few steps away – the sea gilimmered and whispered.

    The unpretentious and elemental setting for these scribblings, as he called them, was a felt feature in everything that Mackay Brown ever wrote. Poet, short-story writer, novelist, dramatist – it didn’t matter which magic hat he was wearing, the words that came out of it were worlds away from the computer screen and the desk. Word-processing was an occupation unknown to him – and also a paradox that made him shudder. You can process peas, he once said to me, but language deserve better, and a writer is not a robot. mackay Brown was a craftsman and a bard and he would spin a web of words with exquisite delicacy, not as the spider and spin-doctor do, to entrap and deceive, but as the minstrel does, to enchant and beguile.” (Cristopher Rush – Slightly Foxed n°4 – Winter 2004)

    A quote written on a front page of the magazine strangely resonates in the surrealistic times we are living presently with the Covid pandemy : ‘Now We’re Shut in for the Night’*… except that it is worse today for it seems that we’ve been shut in day and night for months, limited in our movements and travels. No hope, I fear, to go back to our beloved Scotland before a long time. In such frustrating times books are very welcome, at least for those who love reading as we do.

    More books to arrive… more books to pack ! 😉

    “You’re not going to buy books any more, are you?”, people often ask looking wit some perplexity at the boxes of books piling up day after day in our library. “Of course I will !” I immediately reply to them. 😉

    Here are my last acquisitions and I will tell you more about these books in my next posts.

    The first one is a must for a ghost stories amatrice 😉

    William Croft Dickinson Dark Encounters 1963

    William Croft Dickinson Dark Encounters 1963

    So far I’ve only read ‘The Keepers of the Walls’, ‘Return at Dusk’ and ‘The Return of the Native’ but I will tell about these stories soon because some of them are situated in a place we’ve visited in Scotland.

    ‘Scotland is famous for its ghostly tales and traditions, so who better than a former professor of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh to present them to a moder readership ?’ (Alistair Kerr’s Introduction)

    Strangely enough :

    (..) ‘Dickinson was undeniably English, without any known Scots ancestry’ (..)

    But :

    (..) ‘Dickinson seems to have belonged to a particular type of Englishman – perhaps more common in the past than now – who, often from an early age, identifies strongly and inexplicably with another people or culture. In some cases the identification is so strong as almost to suggest the possibility o reincarnation; of having genuinely belonged to that nation in a past life.’ (..)

    About the book and the author :

    ‘Like most really good ghost stories, there is an element of fact or historical myth surrounding it to make the tale that much more authentic. The author also has the knack of keeping the reader hanging on his words to try and find out what was the cause of the tale’ —Army Rumours

    ‘A really atmospheric book. Best set aside for a cold, dark winter’s evening in front of a roaring log fire!’ —Women Together


    William Croft Dickinson (1897 – 1963) came to study history at St Andrews in 1915. Military service in the trenches in France during the First World War interrupted his studies but in 1921 he graduated with a First and went on to teach history at the London School of Economics. In 1944 he was appointed Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Paleography at the University of Edinburgh, during which time he founded and edited the Scottish Historical Review, and where he remained until his death. Apart from his historical works, Dickinson wrote many books for children and ghost stories; stories and legends were an essential part of the historical narrative to him.

    Alistair W.J. Kerr graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1975 and served in the diplomatic service until 2009. He is the author of a military biography Betrayal: The Murder of Robert Nairac GC (Cambridge Academic, 2015) and is a long-standing admirer of William Croft Dickinson s work.



    My second acquisition did appeal to me because it focuses on light and I’ve always said to me that light had something to do with the captivating charm of Scotland…  it is not an easy book to read for a French native speaker. I had to use my dictionary more often than not to read the first pages but this will not discourage me… it’s a fascinating book. A fascinating book written by a fascinating author. I certainly will buy Peter Davidson’s other books.

    The Last of the Light Peter Davidson Reaktion Books 2015

    The Last of the Light Peter Davidson Reaktion Books 2015


    Books to buy soon 😉

    The Idea of North Peter Davidson 2011

    The Idea of North Peter Davidson 2011


    And last but not least Michael Nevin’s Reminiscences of a Jacobite a book recommended by Iain and Margaret… I’ve already read the long extract as well as the comments on Amazon 😉

    The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and of Marie Stuart, Queen of Scotland and France, together with the Auld Alliance should not be ignored by French people. These are fascinating pages of history… and still more today…

    Reminiscences of a Jacobite Michael Nevin Birlinn Ltd 2020

    Reminiscences of a Jacobite Michael Nevin Birlinn Ltd 2020

    When Jacobite enthusiast Michael Nevin successfully bid for a handwritten letter and memorandum by Bonnie Prince Charlie at an auction, little did he realise he had come into possession of material that would change our view of history.

    Written in France following his defeat at Culloden in 1746 and addressed to Louis XV, the story that emerges from these documents is more complex than that suggested by conventional histories of the time. In addition to revealing the prince as a far more charismatic and courageous figure than that portrayed in popular fiction, they show that, far from abandoning Scotland after Culloden, he was committed to return and did not finally give up his dream of Stuart resoration until the failure of the Elibank Plot.

    In this book, Michael Nevin tells the story of the Rising of 1745-46, its genesis and consequences. It looks at the motivations of the leading players, examines crucial but neglected battles of the Jacobite wars and sheds new light on the mystery of what led to Bonnie Prince’s Charlie’s psychological disintegration after 1752.

    GUIHENEUF Thierry
    5,0 sur 5 étoiles The history behind the Jacobite uprisings as viewed from a different perspective

    So… “books, books, books… always more books” should be my devise… but  it does not make the move any easier. I will manage anyway ! I have to…

    Bonne lecture et à bientôt… maybe from another place 😉

    By the way, did I tell you that the lovely house we’re going to buy in Périgord Noir actually belong to Scottish owners, friendly people as you may have guessed 😉



    *John Burnside (born 19 March 1955) is a Scottish writer, born in Dunfermline. A former computer software engineer, he has been a freelance writer since 1996. He is a former Writer in Residence at the University of Dundee and is now Professor in Creative Writing at St Andrews University,where he teaches creative writing, literature and ecology as well as American poetry.  Burnside has published very successful books of poetry and is the author of two collections of short stories as well as several novels. His multi-award winning memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in 2006 and its successor Waking Up In Toytown, in 2010. A further memoir, I Put A Spell On You combined personal history with reflections on romantic love, magic and popular music. His short stories and feature essays have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The Guardian and The London Review of Books, among others. He also writes an occasional nature column for New Statesman. In 2011 he received the Petrarca-Preis, a major German international literary prize.  Burnside’s work is inspired by his engagement with nature, environment and deep ecology. His collection of short stories, Something Like Happy, was published in 2013. (from Wikipedia)

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