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A Country of Eternal Light by Paul Dalgarno Chosen as Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Month

  03 Aug '23   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Paul Dalgarno was born and raised in Aberdeen, and now he has returned to Scotland to promote his hugely successful novel, A Country of Eternal Light, after it has been chosen as Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Month this August. When selecting the setting for his book, Paul reflected ‘I always wanted to see the city used as the setting for the type of novels I enjoy reading: books that are big and bold in their scope and themes but particular in terms of location and culture. To have not only written that novel, but to see it now in the same Aberdeen bookshops I’ve visited literally hundreds of times, is something of a dream come true – or maybe a dream that still doesn’t feel true.’ 

Paul’s family was not comprised of passionate readers, except for his paternal grandmother, who read everything from Barbara Cartland to Salman Rushdie to John Milton. Paul recalls, ‘The one thing we did always have in our houses was the Evening Express, which I tended to read cover to cover in my teens and early twenties and which no doubt had some bearing on me eventually becoming a journalist, which I’ve been doing now for 20 years.’ 

Paul wrote the majority of A Country of Eternal Light during the very long, very strict COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, where he now lives – a time when it didn’t feel overly dramatic to wonder when, or if, he’d ever make it back to Scotland. During those long months, memories of the Aberdeen of his childhood and early adulthood, his family, friends and other loved ones he’d known there kept coming back to him. Paul says, ‘I’m from a working-class background and have always been astonished that some people equate being working-class with being “less than” intellectually. That’s not been my experience at all. A great many of the smartest, most curious and self-improving peopleI’ve ever known have been working-class, even if they’ve traditionally felt excluded from some of the pathways (such as university) taken by people from more well-to-do backgrounds. I wrote this novel in many ways as a tribute to those people and everyone else like them, who shine brightly and consistently without necessarily knowing it.’

A Country of Eternal Light follows Margaret in a place beyond as she revisits her life, from her Aberdeen childhood to the birth of her twin girls, through Thatcher’s Britain, the PiperAlpha oil rig disaster, Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, the death of Princess Diana and the COVID pandemic. This story will take you on a journey like no other. It is an utterly original, bitingly funny and poignant novel about life, death, what we choose to remember and what we’d do anything to forget. It is a story with Scotland at its heart. 

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