2022 Preview: Literary Fiction

  21 Jan '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

2022 is shaping up to be an excellent year for literary fiction in the Birlinn and Polygon schedule, with exciting new titles from established names and emerging talent, as well as beautiful new editions of familiar classics.

  • The People’s City, in support of the One City Trust (January)
    Introduction by Irvine Welsh / Written by Nadine Aisha Jassat , Anne Hamilton , Alexander McCall Smith , Ian Rankin , Sara Sheridan
    The world’s first UNESCO city of literature, Edinburgh is steeped in literary history. It is the birthplace of a beloved cast of fictional characters from Sherlock Holmes to Harry Potter. It is the home of the Writer’s Museum, where quotes from writers of the past pave the steps leading up to it. A city whose beauty is matched only by the intrigue of its past, and where Robert Louis Stevenson said, ‘there are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh’s street-lamps’. And to celebrate the city, its literature, and more importantly, its people, Polygon and the One City Trust have brought together writers – established and emerging – to write about the place they call home. Based around landmarks or significant links to Edinburgh each story transports the reader to a different decade in the city’s recent past. Through these stories each author reflects on the changes, both generational and physical, in the city in which we live. Following the success of One City, published in 2006, Polygon and One City Trust are publishing the long-awaited follow up. All proceeds from the book will go to the One City charity, which fights social exclusion in the city
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell (January)
    Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organised to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges . . . First published in 1945, Animal Farm – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power. Introduced by award-winning author Alan Johnson.
  • Hex, Jenni Fagan (March)
    From award-winning Jenni Fagan comes a radical new take on a dark episode in Scottish history, the North Berwick witch trials. IT’S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591. On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor, Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe. As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape. Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king’s violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day. Hex is second title in the specially commissioned Darkland Tales series from the absolute best of Scotland’s contemporary writers, following on from the hugely successful Rizzio by Denise Mina.
  • The Love Story of Herb La Fouche, Alexander McCall Smith (August)
    This is the story of Herb la Fouche, of St Julien, Ontario, a fictional town just over the Quebec border. It is the story of how Herb, a good, quiet and unassuming man, a chemistry teacher, comes up with a unique invention and ends up on the Caribbean island of Martinique. There he meets and marries Celine, the divorced sister of the local police chief, Alphonse Charbonneau. Herb’s life amounts to very little, but in this marriage he at last finds happiness and a certain nobility. All around are people whose voices are louder, their actions ostentatious, but it is the quiet life of Herb La Fouche that ultimately triumphs. This engagingly crafted novel, about the nobility of an ordinary life, is written with considerable substance and gravity. With characteristic charm and grace, The Love Story of Herb la Fouche is unashamedly feel-good with plenty of humour, tinged with poignancy.
  • Children of the Dead End, Patrick MacGill (April)
    Based on personal memories of his life in Ireland and Scotland in the early 1900s, this was Patrick MacGill’s first novel. It tells the story of Dermod Flynn an independent and feisty youth who earns a meagre living as an itinerant farm hand in Donegal and County Tyrone before coming to Scotland with a potato-picking squad. After living on the road, labouring and navvying, Dermod finds work on the hydro-electric scheme at Kinlochleven –an extraordinarily brutal and unforgiving environment where hundreds died on one of the biggest engineering projects of its time. Against this background, Dermod reads voraciously, begins to discover his talent as a writer and is eventually lured to Fleet Street, where he briefly becomes a journalist. Peopled with extraordinary characters, Children of the Dead End is a gritty and uncompromising expose of the near slavery endured by the poor in Scotland and Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century. Children of the Dead End was hugely popular and influential book when first published in 1914, when novels about the working classes were largely ignored or written by disdainful middle class writers. It features an introduction by award-winning nature writer Patrick Baker.
  • Liberation’s Child, Lucy Cruickshanks (April)
    Set in a Britain of the near future, haunted by its past in which the traces of genocide lay just below the surface, two survivors, Thea and Dom, are on a journey to uncover the truth behind an illegal adoption ring and to find a missing baby. Their search for the truth puts both of their lives in danger and uncovers that new Free and Equal Britain is not just a memory. As Dom and Thea’s paths collide, they unearth not only adoption crimes on an industrial scale, but links to fugitive FEBera politicians that both Dom and Thea still have deeply personal reasons to resent — and fear. Will Dom discover the truth about the child he hoped would rebuild his family? Will Thea find her daughter? Will the past continue to block their way? Based on a real-life adoption scandal, The Liberation’s Child explores themes of guilt, redemption and justice through the vehicle of a quest by two survivors of a genocide.
  • The Secret of Ardnish, Angus Macdonald (May)
    A small inheritance and a letter from his grandfather mark the beginnings of a journey that leads Peter Angus Gillies from his mundane job in Canada to Ardnish, the land of his forebears, on the rugged and remote west coast of Scotland. As Peter Angus explores the long-abandoned places where his ancestors eked out a living and listens to stories about them, he learns of treasure lost centuries before from a ship transporting French gold to help the Jacobite cause. Completely bewitched by the spell of Ardnish and the ghosts of its past, he sets out to find the hidden gold. With the help of a local girl, Sarah, he embarks on a search that will test him emotionally and physically as he learns independence and resilience – and experiences a love like he has never known before. The Secret of Ardnish is the fourth book in Angus MacDonald’s bestselling Ardnish series.
  • Nothing Left to Fear from Hell, Alan Warner (September)
    A battle lost. A daring escape. A long walk into obscurity. The ultimate failure…. In the aftermath of the disastrous Battle of Culloden, a lonely figure takes flight with a small band of companions through the mountainous landscapes of the north-west Highlands of Scotland. His name is Charles Edward Stuart: better known today as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He had come to the country to take the throne. Now he is leaving in exile and abject defeat. In prose that is by turns poetic, comic, macabre, haunting and humane, multiaward-winning author Alan Warner traces the last journey through Scotland of a man who history will come to define for his failure.
  • Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith (November)
    Catch up, once again, with the denizens of 44 Scotland Street in the new, humorous and wonderfully-wise 44 Scotland Street novel. Filled with philosophical insight as well as sartorial elegance, catch up once again with the extended family at No 44, in this the latest instalment in the Scotland Street series.
  • Of Stone and Sky, Merryn Glover (paperback, March)
    After Highland shepherd Colvin Munro disappears, a mysterious trail of his possessions is found in the Cairngorm mountains. Writing the eulogy for his memorial years later, his foundling-sister Mo seeks to discover why he vanished. Younger brother Sorley is also haunted by his absence and driven to reveal the forces that led to Colvin’s disappearance. Is their brother alive or dead? Set on a farming estate in the upper reaches of the River Spey, Of Stone and Sky follows several generations of a shepherding family in a paean to the bonds between people, their land and way of life. It is a profound mystery, a passionate poem, a political manifesto, shot through with wisdom and humour. Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2021, Of Stone and Sky is out in paperback in March.
  • The Pavilion in the Clouds, Alexander McCall Smith (paperback, April)
    It is 1938 and the final days of the British Empire. In a bungalow high up in the green hills above the plains of Ceylon, under a vast blue sky, live the Ferguson family: Bella, a precocious eight-year-old; her father Henry – owner of Pitlochry, a tea plantation – and her mother Virginia. The story centres around the Pavilion in the Clouds, set in the idyllic grounds carved out of the wilderness. But all is not as serene as it seems. Bella is suspicious of her governess, Miss White’s intentions. Her suspicion sparks off her mother’s imagination and after an unfortunate series of events, a confrontation is had with Miss White and a gunshot rings off around the hills. This evocative new stand-alone novel transports the reader to the highlands of Sri Lanka, and deftly captures the tensions within a family as their lives start to unravel.
  • Tiny Tales, Alexander McCall Smith (paperback, July)
    Stories do not have to be long. In the space of a couple of sentences – or even a page or two – we may see the human heart exposed in a way that is more powerful than occurs in many much longer narratives. In Tiny Tales Alexander McCall Smith explores romance, ambition, kindness and happiness in thirty short stories that range in length from the short to the minuscule. The settings are as diverse as the characters – Scotland, England, Australia, the United States – combining to create a rich and surprising tableau. An Australian pope?. A persuasive cosmetic surgeon? The world’s laziest cat. A group of students living together and getting romantically entangled? All human and animal life is here – in miniature. These stories are inspired and accompanied by the thirty magnificent strip Tiny Tales created by McCall Smith and illustrated by the brilliant  Iain McIntosh – each cartoon a little gem of observation.

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