Monday, 16 August 2010


I was intending to start my series of posts about books with librarians in today, Mondays are always about work so it seemed like a good time to begin. However, I reckoned without the prospect of an exciting adventure coming up very soon. My fiance has been away for a while, helping out his brother with a play at the Edinburgh Festival, and although I feel somewhat feeble about it, I have been missing him dreadfully. When he kept saying "I wish you were here" and telling me about how much fun he was having, I got out my credit card and booked a flight up. It means flying (something I don't do terribly well, not even in a plane), and sleeping with the guys in the camper van which is apparently parked on some residential street somewhere, so no prospect of a shower... But, I'd do almost anything to see him 24 hours sooner and see his performance in the festival (my fiance is providing the sound effect of the door, in a play named The door, a very crucial contribution).

Anyway, to get to the point, as this is in general a blog about books or cooking. What Edinburgh themed reading is there? Muriel Spark has already been suggested to me, but I think I've read most of hers. I think actually I am going to have to just choose the books with the smallest print as I'm intending not to check in any bags. Which means Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby from the TBR, and Swimming by Nicola Keegan which is on my library pile, both of which have offputtingly small type. But I'd love to read something Edinburgh related, perhaps even before I go to get me in the mood.

Also - suggestions of things to do in Edinburgh much appreciated. To be honest, I don't anticipate having much time as the men will be busy with the play, and I know they are keen to get around a lot of shows, but if I do find myself at a loose end - what should I see? I've been given this list of secondhand bookshops (I'd already dispatched my fiance to buy me the two latest Greyladies titles which sadly means I'm unlikely to make it down to the Old Children's Bookshelf on canongate).


  1. Edinburgh is wonderful! If you are lucky enough to be there during the festival then you wont have any problem filling your day. Get down to the Book festival in Charlotte Square and then fill the rest of your time with comedy! I'm very jealous :-)

  2. Yes, you should pop into the Book Festival and peruse the books there. Waterstone's on Princes Street has a great Scottish fiction section (aimed at tourists, of course) and the one on -the far nicer- George St parallel to it probably does too.

    Personally I dislike Edinburgh but it makes a lovely place to visit when you haven't been before. Perhaps you could reread Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary in preparation?

  3. How about Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books? I think the first is even set during the festival.

  4. Hurrah for the luxury of our lives being able to go to Edinburgh for love... Hope the plane journey goes well. Have fun I really enjoyed my time visiting the Festival. I third the Book Festival - it's also near the good shops if you're interested in other shopping.

  5. Alexander McCall Smith! The Isabel Dalhouise series is my favorite, and there's enough philosophical thinking in them to lift them up above the ordinary.

  6. Have fun! I've only rushed through on my way to somewhere else so I can offer no advice but I hope you get a chance to explore as by all accounts it's a beautiful city.

  7. I would second Audrey's nomination of McCall Smith. I too am a big fan of the Dalhousie series, though it is his other Edinburgh-based books, the Scotland Street series, that I love most of all. I am current reading the latest of these volumes slowly - just a couple of chapters every few days in order to prolong the joy!

    Like Kiara, the Jackson Brodie books also sprang to mind. It is the second in the series, One Good Turn, that is set in Edinburgh at festival time. I seem to recall the first one is set in East Anglia.

    I think Edinburgh is at least in part the setting for James Robertson's big new book, which Will Rycroft has written about on his blog: However, for a shorter read you could try The Fanatic, Robertson's novel set around one of those Edinburgh ghost tours.

    Whilst I've not noticed much mention of crime fiction on your blog, Ian Rankin's Rebus books might still be worth a try. Rankin shows a very different side to the Scottish capital, but there's a lot more to these books than thuggery and a drunken cop. If there wasn't they would not have interested me. Rankin was researching a doctorate on Muriel Spark before he turned to crime (crime-writing that is!).

    Enjoy your trip. I just love the idea that you had to fly up there because you could not bear to be parted any longer. Romance is not dead it seems.

  8. Have a great time. If it's raining and you want to sit down try the Scottish National Gallery. It's central (Princes street) free, full of nice things and not to large. All excellent points in it's favour. It has a nice cafe too...

    Otherwise just soak it up, it's a lovely city and very romantic even in a packed camper van:)

    Oh and I second the waterstone's suggestion. They have excellent scottish fiction sections - perfect for a souviner.

  9. I love Edinburgh, so I'm emerald green that you're going there.

    Katherine Wentworth is partly set in Edinburgh. "Listening Valley" also begins in Edinburgh, both by D E Stevenson, who was born in Edinburgh. 45 Meville Street was her birthplace, sadly no blue plaque to commemorate it.

    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

    I see that A McCall Smith has already been recommended.

    Juvenile fiction - A Flute in Mayferry Street by Eileen Dunlop.

    Greyfriars Bobby, read the book, or watch the film, and see the statue.

    I'm fairly sure that Shoebox Zoo which we watched on children's TV a few years ago is also at least partly set in Edinburgh, think there was later a book of the series.

  10. Verity, David and Audrey are very right, Alexander McCall Smith LOVES his home town and his Scotland St series is gentle, slightly absurd, warming, depicting some characters who are 'good' and yet lovable - generally a gorgeous series. There are now 7 volumes of this series - they are a 'daily' novel published in The Scotsman, made of many small chapters.

    David, I am half way through The Importance of Being Seven. Irene is increasingly horrid isn't she?!

  11. I love Edinburgh and am always excited to find books set there. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson and Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series are favourites, as is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell.

    The Scottish section at the Waterstone's on Princes Street is a convenient resource and I've always found the staff there to be very energetic with both their fiction and non-fiction recommendations.

  12. Cornflower lives out there doesn't she...she bakes one heck of a cake by the looks of things. Just one of many good reasons to look her up and I bet her shelves would make for great browsing as well!

    Enjoy yourself, Verity!

  13. Sounds as though you are going on quite an adventure! Have a lovely time, look forward to hearing all about it!

  14. Hi everyone - thanks for all of the comments - why is there so much crime fiction set in Edinburgh?! Not really my favourite genre.

    Jackie - I think you're right - it sounds like there are so many good shows on. Fingers crossed Ken can get me a ticket for the time travelling magicians!

    Claire - I am determined not to come back with any books so I may give that a miss :) I shall peruse the scottish fiction section though.

    Kiara King - good suggestion, I've not read much Kate Atkinson.

    Joan - it is a luxury indeed but it makes up for having been alone all week.

    Rachel - I'm not sure I will have much more time than if I was rushing through but I will do my best!

    David - you're right, I don't tend to read much crime. I like the sound of James Robertson - not in my library here but maybe I'll be able to browse something by him while I'm up there. Romance is definitely not dead.

    Hayley - the National Gallery sounds like a great option - I shall have to have a look at what they've got htere (as I never know where to start in a gallery).

    Claire - I'd forgotten about the Vanishing Act of Esme - I might have to reread that. Kate Atkinson also attracts me but everything by her is on loan at the library - grr!

    Geraldine - The flute on Mayferry street - what a wonderful book that was. Sadly not at the library or I'd request it immediately. I found another juvenile book on my shelves this morning - The high house - by Honor Arundel - have you come across her? I don't think there's time to order up any more DES from the library headquarters or I would as she is suitably Scottish.

    Merenia - somehow A McS has never really appealed - partly because I'm not into crime but maybe I should get over it and give it a go.

    Darlene - I'd forgotten that - not sure there'll be time to look her up though as I won't have access to a car.

    Dot - it is a bit of an adventure - am really quite terrified - I hate flying and I hate the thought of not sleeping in a bed. It seemed like a good idea at the time!

  15. Verity - it is bigged-up on the secondhand bookshop list, but make sure you go to McNaughton's - it was the best bookshop I went to when I was there. Lots of gems, very reasonable prices.

  16. Oh, have fun! I've been mad at myself for the past several years for not going to Edinburgh at all the year I was in England. It sounds gorgeous.

  17. Merenia, I hadn't noticed Irene being even more obnoxious than previously, just her usual self, though now you mention it...!

    Verity, I think you have a slight misconception of AMcS as a crime writer, owing to his most famous creation being Botswana's top lady detective. Isobel Dalhousie is something of an amateur sleuth, but the Scotland Street series is more like a soap opera of the Edinburgh bourgoisie: an every day story of East Lothian folk so to speak. One of the characters is so upper middle class that he believes every one has an aga in their kitchen.

  18. David - thanks - ok, I shall give it a go if I can find one of them at the library at lunchtime. I have an unread copy of The Sunday Philosophy Club at home too which I've never read - any good?

  19. In answer to your question about The Sunday Philosophy Club, it is the first in the Isabel Dalhousie series that Audrey and I both mentioned. Its heroine is a woman with what used to described as a private income, who has nothing more taxing to do than edit a philosophical journal. By which I do not mean that editing a journal is easy, simply that she does not have a university post and therefore does not need to juggle teaching and research. In between wrestling with philosophical conundrums, she does a bit of amateur sleuthing and occasionally helps out in her neice's delicatessen. Her sometimes difficult relationship with her neice is one of the storylines that threads its way through the series. I enjoy following her thoughts and getting the opportunity to share, for a time, her highly comfortable lifestyle.


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