2022 Previews: Historical Fiction

  27 Jan '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Our historical fiction offerings for 2022 will take you on an extraordinary journey, from the aftermath of the Battle of Bannockburn to the Nazi occupation of Jersey, with many other stops along the way. It includes two new titles in our acclaimed Darkland Tales series, where we have commissioned the best Scottish writers to write radical reimaginings of Scottish history and legend.

  • 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.
  • Dark Hunter, Fiona Watson (April)
    The year is 1317. Young English squire Benedict Russell joins the garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last English-held town in Scotland after the spectacular Scottish victory at Bannockburn three years earlier. Serious and self-doubting, Ben can’t wait for his time there to come to an end. But as the Scots draw ever closer and the English king does nothing to stop them, he finds himself in a race against time to solve the brutal murder of a young girl and find the traitor lurking within Berwick’s walls. Dark Hunter is an engrossing period mystery from a hugely talented historian and writer, set during the reign of Robert the Bruce. It brings to life the sights, smells and sounds of the 14th-century and the precarious existence of those who lived on the border between England and Scotland, disputed territory for generations. Watson’s writing powerfully evokes the dominance of religion and the low status of women in the medieval world.
  • The Girl from the Channel Islands, Jenny Lecoat (July)
    In June 1940, the Channel Islands becomes the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by Hitler’s forces. Hedy Bercu, a young Jewish girl from Vienna who fled to Jersey two years earlier to escape the Anschluss, finds herself once more entrapped by the Nazis, this time with no escape. The Girl From the Channel Islands follows her struggle to survive the Occupation and avoid deportation to the camps. Despite her racial status, Hedy finds work with the German authorities and embarks on acts of resistance. Most remarkable of all, she falls in love with a German lieutenant – a relationship on which her life soon comes to depend. The novel was a Top 10 bestseller in the USA and Germany, with rights now also sold to Australia, Argentina, Portugal, France and Israel.
  • The Edinburgh Skating Club, Michelle Sloan (August)
    When you look at a painting, what do you really see? When eighteenth-century poet Alison Cockburn accepts a light-hearted challenge from her good friend Katherine Hume to live as a man, in order to infiltrate the infamous Edinburgh Skating Club, little do they both realise how her new identity will shape their futures. Together they navigate their way through the sights, sounds and faces of Enlightenment Edinburgh, from Old Town to New Town and from joyous friendship to a deep affection. In twenty-first-century Edinburgh, art historian Claire Sharp receives a mysterious request: to settle once and for all the true provenance of the iconic painting The Skating Minister. But when she and friend Jen Brodie dig deeper, they discover the incredible truth behind the painting and two extraordinary women Enlightenment Edinburgh forgot. This is a witty, pacy and ultimately moving time-shift novel that celebrates the women overlooked by history, loosely based on the literary hostess Alison Cockburn and featuring cameos from Adam Smith, David Hume and Robert Burns.
  • 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.
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