In the August edition of BookSpace, Chiara Bullen reviews some of Scotland’s latest literary productions
Constitution Street, by Jemma Neville
Non-Fiction | 404Ink | £12.99 | Buy Here
Welcome to Constitution Street, Edinburgh. The street, like the world at large, is in a moment of flux. Part memoir, part social history and a call to action, Constitution Street is an antidote to an age of personal and political anxiety. Here, the real-life stories on one street, shared with Jemma Neville and framed by her own, reveal the courage, perseverance and capacity for love within us all.
Probably the most important book to be published in Scotland today. Neville paints a poignant picture spanning Scotland’s history, strife, political battles and state; all fitting snuggly into one street in Leith. Through the conversations with neighbours and looking at global issues in a local context we see Scotland, and each other, through the eyes of many to challenge assumptions and encourage new conversations. Asking what a social contract might look like today, Consitution Street deftly highlights those in society who are being overlooked and hurt by the state, which would make for frustrating reading if not for Neville’s words of hope that we can still change the world for the better.
Love, Pan-Fried, Gray Crosbie (Illustrated by Johanne Licard and Murphy Winter)
Flash Fiction Collection | Knight Errant Press | £8.00 | Buy Here
LOVE, PAN-FRIED is a bundle of tiny stories (flash fiction) about shape-shifting, love, loss, our strange relationship with our body and everything in between.
This is a marvellous collection of stories so sharp they cut you to the quick. Issues of body, gender and relationships are explored with such open and astonishing honesty that reading this feels profoundly relieving since nothing, as happens all too often, is held back. The lingering sadness of Winter Friends and the intensity of Intimacy, in HD will stick with me for a long time. Crosbie is a writer that leads with to-the-point emotion, brimming with the kind of talent that is sure to one day hook the world (if you haven’t seen them perform spoken word then you’re missing out). Love, Pan Fried is also peppered with grizzly illustrations that make the pages shine.
Blessed Assurance, Stewart Ennis
Fiction | Vagabond Voices | £9.95 | Pre-Order Here
Set against the backdrop of a small close-knit evangelical community in the fictional Scottish village of Kilhaugh one fog bound December in the late nineteen sixties when the Cold War was on the brink of turning hot. The story takes place over six soul searching days in the life of God-fearing dog-thief and pyromaniac, 11-year-old Joseph Kirkland, and his godless, devil-may-care best friend, Archie Truman.
This is a vibrant and tense book illustrating the dangers of pushing fears and beliefs harshly on children. Joseph’s plight and anxieties are set against the backdrop of a typical working-class village in Scotland – the residents of which are brilliantly crafted by Ennis, with characters and the sense of community reminding me of people from my own home village all these years later. The relationship between Joseph and his grandfather was a highlight, offering some light relief in Joseph’s life. Overall this is a beautifully written and ambitious debut, which is well worth the leap of faith.
I Go Quiet, David Ouimet
Children’s | Canongate | £12.99 | Buy Here
I Go Quiet is the exquisite story of an introverted girl, struggling to find her place in a noisy world. Through the power of books, creativity and imagination, she begins to see possibilities for herself beyond the present, to a future where her voice will finally be heard.
The haunting illustrations paired with words that dive deep into the depths of loneliness and isolation felt by children makes for an astonishing, almost genre-defying read. But Ouimet pairs these factors with themes of hope and wonder, spurring on children to find their voice, their potential, their happiness at their own pace and in their own time. Books that encourage those who feel different from the world around them to embrace their uniqueness are ones that will resonate with many a millennial and, more importantly, their children. It’s clear that I Go Quiet belongs in this category and will remain iconic for years to come.