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Scotland's Last Frontier, A Journey Along The Highland Line

by Alistair Moffat

The Highland Line is the most profound internal boundary in Britain. First recognized by Agricola in the first century A.D. (parts of its most northerly portion mark the furthest north the Romans got), it divides the country both geologically and culturally, signaling the border between Highland and Lowland, Gaelic and English-speaking. In Scotland's Last Frontier, best-selling author Alistair Moffat makes a journey of the imagination, tracing the route of the Highland Line from the River Clyde through Perthshire and the northeast. In addition to exploring the huge importance of this line over almost 2,000 years, he also shows how it continues to influence life and attitudes in 21st-century Scotland. The result is a fascinating book, full of history and anecdote.

Gillespie and I

by Jane Harris

As she sits in her Bloomsbury home, with her two birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her acquaintance, nearly four decades previously, with Ned Gillespie, a talented artist who never achieved the fame he deserved. Back in 1888, the young, art-loving Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in all of their lives. But when tragedy strikes -- leading to a notorious criminal trial -- the promise and certainties of this world rapidly change to mystery and deception. Aside from the engaging plot, the other real virtue of this book is its intensely detailed recreation of Glasgow's past, infused with atmosphere and period detail.

The Lewis Chessmen: and What Happened to Them

by Irving Finkel

Found on a beach on the Isle of Lewis in 1881, the Lewis Chessmen are a set of intricately carved, walrus ivory chessmen: seated kings and queens, bishops, knights, warders and pawns. Many archaeologists believe they were made in Scandinavia, possibly Norway, and could date to around 1150 A.D. Some of the pieces are displayed in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland, while others are at the British Museum, where they have delighted generations of visitors with their wonderfully expressive details. In a great little book -- aimed at younger readers, but also perfect for anyone curious about the story of the Lewis Chessmen -- Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, turns them into an engaging story, told from the perspective of the chessmen themselves and complimented by charming pen-and-ink drawings.

subscribe Full reviews of these books are available in the Summer 2016 issue of Scottish Life.

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