Looking for fiction – Scottish Gaelic myth, legend, folklore and shared experiences

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Looking for fiction – Scottish Gaelic myth, legend, folklore and shared experiences

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Jan 8, 2016, 1:35 pm

This is a request from a fellow blogger:

"The book hunt is on!

Do you know of a fiction book that draws on Scottish Gaelic or Scottish Highlander myth, legend, folklore or shared historical experience (e.g. the clearances)?

What would you recommend?

I am especially interested in books that are:

by authors from the Scottish Gaelic Diaspora;
for young adults;
speculative fiction (for example, fantasy, magic realism etc).

However, all recommendations are welcome!"

Jan 19, 2016, 8:42 pm

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon comes immediately to mind.
Here is a list from a Scottish website: http://www.heartoscotland.com/Categories/historicalfiction.htm
From the Scottish Book Trust: http://scottishbooktrust.com/reading/book-lists/9-books-set-in-the-highlands

Jan 20, 2016, 10:12 am

No offense to the previous poster but I'm not sure I would recommend any of the books in the links and I certainly wouldn't recommend Gabaldon whose works have nothing at all to do with any real Scotland.

There is always Robert Louis Stevenson, it is hard to beat Treasure Island and Kidnapped for young adults and as a bonus many of his short stories are infused with the supernatural. Before Stevenson there was James Hogg, anyone remotely interested in Scotland has to read Confessions of a Justified Sinner, probably the Scottish novel in terms of national character. His other major novel is The Three Perils of Man, harder work but worth the effort. The third 19th century author worth checking out is George Macdonald. Macdonald wrote a lot of mediocre Kailyard novels but his fantasies for children are highly rated; even better are the two fantasies that bookend his career, Phantastes and Lilith, truly unique novels.

In the 20th century the big magic realist novel is Lanark, other Alasdair Gray books are hit-and-miss but this one is a cracker. (His books always look good because he is also an acclaimed artist and designs them himself). Neil Gunn is primarily a realist writer but his novels seem to have a spiritual aura about them, he is the leading novelist of the Highlands. An interesting non-fiction book on the Highlands is Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain, a nature book well ahead of its time. Her fiction is worth searching out as well.
Arguably the greatest single novel set in the Highlands is Lewis Crassic Gibbon's Sunset Song, a film adaptation of which has just been released. Along with the sequels it makes up A Scots Quair (It was also voted the greatest Scottish novel of the 20th century by popular vote).

A couple of Orcadian writers are also worth searching out - George Mackay Brown and Naomi Mitchison - both of whom employ local legends and folklore. Mackay Brown is Orkney through and through but Mitchison was a true world citizen, whose work ranges far and wide, from Orkney to ancient Rome to outer space. (An incredible woman who is worth reading about as well as reading).

Recommendations around Gaelic are much harder. Outsiders to Scotland are often saddled with the misconception that Gaelic culture is strong in Scotland. Most of Scotland has spoken Scots for centuries, with only a few of the pockets in the Highlands and Islands holding onto Gaelic. Allied to the primacy of poetry and song in Gaeldom the number of books available is not large. Iain Crichton Smith was a Gael who also wrote in English, his Consider the Lillies is an excellent novel set during the clearances.

There are many other books and writers but I was thinking in terms of good introductory works.

Jan 20, 2016, 10:16 am

If you like fantasy, you should try THE SCIONS OF SHANARA by terry brooks