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Scabby Queen

Kirstin Innes

Scabby Queen is the story of fictional folk musician and one-hit wonder Clio Campbell. The book opens with her suicide and the story of her life is told by multiple characters from her past and present, but never by Clio herself. Some of the characters know her well and we hear from them throughout the book and some are a more fleeting encounter.

Cover of Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes

Clio is feminist, feisty and always championing a cause. She shot to fame with her hit Rise Up – protesting against the unpopular poll tax. Her causes change through her life – she becomes involved in the political lives of those living in a Brixton squat, brings her music to the people with a village hall tour of tiny highland towns, protests the G8 in Genoa, the Iraq war, Brexit and campaigns for Scottish independence. Every cause she’s fully immersed, it’s always brought back to the political and she’s desperate for everyone to care as much as she does.

As you learn more about her, you discover a vulnerable, complicated, unhappy woman behind the facade, who doesn’t seem quite sure what she’s aiming for and therefore never quite gets what she wants.

This book will make you think – Clio lives life feeling deeply & always fighting against the next injustice. As she ages it appears she’s judged more for not changing, toning down and conforming to society’s expectations of women.

If you enjoy feisty characters and a thought provoking read, then I highly recommend this book. As one of the characters, Neil says: “We all have our different memories of Clio.” Ultimately it’s interesting to see how everyone has a different relationship with and a different understanding of Clio – all drawn in by her irresistible personality.

Cosy wee reads is all about celebrating Scottish fiction and the book mentioned in this blog post is the type of fiction you can expect to find in a cosy wee reads surprise book gift. You can find out more about monthly subscriptions and one-off book gifts here.

The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing

Mary Paulson-Ellis

This wonderful mystery is told, using a dual narrative. Firstly, there's Captain Godfrey Farthing during the dying days of World War I in early November 1918 and then there's Solomon Farthing in 2016, before the EU referendum.

Solomon is an old school heir hunter and he’s trying to track down the relatives of Thomas Methven who has died with no will and £50,000 sewn into his suit. His only clue is a very old pawn ticket found amongst the dead man’s belongings.

As Solomon digs further into Methven’s past, he starts to discover a connection to himself and to whatever happened between his grandfather & his men back in 1918. Captain Godfrey Farthing and his men were staying in an abandoned farmhouse awaiting orders, whilst hoping the end of the war would come first. The men spent lots of their time gambling with their small, prized possessions – such as spools of pink thread, a wishbone, a cap badge and an old pawn ticket! Through the story and into the present day, many of these items are passed on and seen to have a significance, but interestingly the original meaning is lost through time.

One of my favourite things in a book is a dual timeline narrative & I really enjoyed this one. Although it’s long, at 500 pages, the unfolding mystery made it a page turner. Oh & if you’ve read her previous book, The Other Mrs Walker, then curiously Margaret Penny pops up in this one!

Cosy wee reads, is all about celebrating Scottish fiction and the book mentioned in this blog post is the type of fiction you can expect to find in a cosy wee reads package. You can find out more about subscriptions and one-off gifts here.

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Alys Conran

I purchased this book at the Edinburgh book festival in 2019 after seeing Alys Conran interviewed and I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up. It is a beautifully written story all about the meaning of home, which seems particularly apt for this year.

The story is told through the eyes of 3 very different women. It centres around Magda’s house by the sea in a Welsh town. She was born in colonial India, sent to boarding school as young child and had a career as a scientist. However, when we meet her, she longer leaves home and the house is gradually fading away along with her. She is fully dependent on carers coming in several times a day, and unable to move around freely, she spends a lot of time lost in the past of her childhood. The second character is Evelyn, Magda’s mother, she travelled to northern Indian in the 1930s to be married. Despite initially resisting, she was utterly changed as a person by the experience – really becoming the colonial wife she was expected to be. Again, the theme of home is extremely prominent as the women in India spend so much time and focus discussing “back home” as well as trying to recreate that sense of home in India. The final character is Susheela, one of Magda’s daily carers. She’s struggling with grief and the pressures of daily life, and despite Magda’s extremely prickly character, the two of them form an unlikely bond.

This book is definitely not plot driven, but more a look at each of the character’s lives. It’s about the way they define home and how they try to create that for themselves or in fact feel like they’re losing it. We learn Susheela’s mum was searching for, but never found, an English equivalent for the Bangla word Desh, meaning the where that’s who you are. Doesn’t that just sum up the meaning of home – it’s not just the place itself, but the also the feeling home gives you. If you enjoy family stories, then I recommend picking this one up.