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Island of Dreams: A Personal History of a Remarkable Place

by Dan Boothby

Dan Boothby had been drifting for more than 20 years without family, friends or a steady occupation. He was looking for, but never found, the perfect place to land. Finally, unexpectedly, an opportunity presented itself. After a lifelong obsession with Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water trilogy, the lyrical and moving story of Maxwell's life with otters in the wild, Boothby was given the chance to move to Maxwell's former home, Kyleakin Lighthouse Island, a tiny piece of land between Skye and mainland Scotland. Island of Dreams is about Boothby's time living there, and about the natural and human history that surrounded him; it's about the people he meets and the stories they tell, and about his engagement with this remote landscape, including the otters that inhabit it. Interspersed with Boothby's own story is a quest to better understand the mysterious Gavin Maxwell. Beautifully written and frequently leavened with a dry wit, Island of Dreams is a charming celebration of the particularities of place.

Consider the Lilies

by Iain Crichton-Smith

Now considered a modern classic, Consider the Lilies focuses on the eviction of an old woman from her croft. The Highland Clearances, the removal of crofters from their homes between 1792 and the 1850s, was one of the cruelest episodes in Scotland's history, forcing tenant farmers off the land to make room for more profitable sheep. In Consider the Lilies, Iain Crichton Smith captures its impact through the thoughts and memories of an old woman who has lived all her life within the narrow confines of her community. Alone and bewildered by the demands of Patrick Sellar, the factor sent by the Duke of Sutherland, she approaches the minister for help, only to have her faith shattered by his hypocrisy. She finds comfort, however, from a surprising source: Donald Macleod, an imaginative and self-educated man who has been ostracized by his neighbours, not least by Mrs. Scott herself, for his atheism. Through him and through the circumstances forced upon her, the old woman achieves new strength. Written with compassion, in spare, simple prose, Consider the Lilies is a moving testament to the enduring qualities that enable the oppressed to triumph in defeat.

The Little Island by the Sea

by Benedict Blathwayt

A charming childrenís book by writer/illustrator Benedict Blathwayt, The Little Island by the Sea captures a Scottish setting to perfection. On the island of Mull, nobody has lived in an abandoned and run-down cottage by the sea for a long time, except for the animals and birds that have made it their home. What will happen to them when Finn, the fisherman, wants to live there, too? Find out in this delightful storybook, which follows Finn as he restores the house, goes fishing and takes holidaymakers out in his boat. Over a mere 30 pages, Blathwayt evokes a wide spread of Hebridean flora and fauna, including seals, lobster-pot fishing, clifftop puffins and the legendary mythical giantís home known as Fingalís Cave.

Silver Darlings

by William Morris

Of all the superstitions held by the crew of the fishing boat The Silver Darling, the most perilous of all is that under no circumstances should a white-handled knife ever be carried on board. This debut graphic novel by Scottish artist and writer Will Morris takes place in the summer of 1967, when Danny is getting ready to leave the humdrum Ayrshire village of his childhood and go to college -- but first, he must join his father and The Silver Darling crew on a fishing trip. Intricately researched and packed with humor, pathos and astonishing ink-washed art, Will Morris leaves no stone unturned as he transports the reader into the grueling world of a Dunure fishing crew. This is as much a coming of age drama as it is a faithful tribute to Ayrshire s historic fishing industry and the people who worked the seas.

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

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