Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature (the very first in the world to receive the accolade in 2004) and in between going to events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, I visited a few of the literary attractions and bookshops that the city has to offer.
The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has its main base in Edinburgh’s Old Town on George IV Bridge and is home to some 24 million printed items including one of the world’s largest collections of maps. As it is a research library, the reading rooms can only be accessed if you are a member but there are temporary exhibitions for visitors including displays of flyers and programmes from the Edinburgh Festival which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The main exhibition running at the moment is ‘Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley’ which documents the Endurance expedition and rescue in 1914-16 and includes diaries, photographs, letters and other items from various archives. Admission is free and it’s well worth a look if you’re passing by. Continue reading
The last event I attended at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday was Maggie O’Farrell in conversation with Hannah Beckerman. The discussion during the first half focused on her latest novel This Must Be The Place which I read last year while the second half explored her new book and first work of non-fiction ‘I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death’ which is published in the UK this week. Continue reading
I have spent the past few days at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and on Monday, I went to a talk by Henry Marsh about his new book ‘Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery’. I really enjoyed reading Do No Harm: Stories in Life, Death and Brain Surgery in 2014 in which he reflected on the successes and failures of his career as a consultant neurosurgeon and his frustrations with NHS hospital management with remarkable frankness. As the clever pun in the title suggests, his second book is similarly confessional and candid, perhaps even more so in some respects. Continue reading
‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple in their late twenties living in Connecticut on the Revolutionary Hill Estates with their two young children in 1955. Frank commutes to New York City but finds his job at Knox Business Machines very dull with few long-term prospects while April had dreamed of becoming an actress before marriage and motherhood led her to be a housewife. They long to escape their life in suburbia which they see as stifling and unfulfilling but their circumstances change when April discovers that she is pregnant again. Continue reading
As some of you may already know, August is Women in Translation Month (founded by book blogger Meytal at Biblibio in 2014) which aims to increase readership of translated books by female authors and raise awareness of the gender imbalance in publishing (estimates vary but currently only around 25-30% of books translated into English are by female authors). The three titles I have been reading this month from authors based in Israel, Austria and Mexico showcase the variety of fiction written by women around the world and championed by independent publishers Pushkin Press, Peirene Press and Granta.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston) tells the story of Dr Eitan Green, a neurosurgeon who has recently relocated to the Israeli city of Beersheba and is involved in a collision with an illegal Eritrean immigrant while he is driving home from work through the desert. In a panic, Eitan leaves him to die at the side of the road, but the dead man’s widow shows up the next day on his doorstep holding his wallet which he left at the scene and blackmails him into providing medical assistance to other illegal immigrants in the area. To complicate matters even further, Eitan’s wife Liat is the police detective tasked with uncovering the identity of the driver who left the scene of the hit-and-run. Continue reading
‘Purity’ by Jonathan Franzen tells the story of Pip, a college graduate in her 20s living in Oakland, California and deeply in debt who is offered the chance to take an internship with the Sunlight Project in Bolivia led by East German peace activist Andreas Wolf. Pip hopes that working for the Sunlight Project – a Wikileaks-style organisation which traffics secrets – will lead her to some answers about her origins including the identity of her father. Her work eventually takes her to Denver where she meets investigative journalist Tom Aberant who has connections with Andreas and knows his darkest secret. Continue reading
This month, I’ve broken the habit of a (five-year blogging) lifetime and reread the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman ahead of the publication of ‘La Belle Sauvage’, the first volume of the Book of Dust trilogy later this year. The first book in the series ‘Northern Lights’ is set in a parallel universe similar to ours but different in many ways and introduces twelve-year-old Lyra Belacqua and her dæmon companion Pantalaimon who travel to the North Pole to rescue her friend Roger from the Gobblers who are carrying out experiments on children. In ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’, Lyra meets Will Parry and they travel between different universes including our own in pursuit of the meaning of Dust. Continue reading