BookSpace: We Don’t Die of Love; What Magic is This?; The Living Mountain; The Art of Dying

Ben Wray

Chiara Bullen’s July edition of BookSpace reviews some of the latest Scottish literary productions

We Don’t Die of Love, Stephen May

Fiction | Sandstone Press |£7.99 | Buy Here

Luke Greenwood is in crisis. His wife of 32 years, Selena, is leaving him for a much younger man. Then local gangsters set their sights on his café and take an interest in what’s left of his family.

This is one of those novels that grabs you and doesn’t let go until the very end. With an almost crime novel essence to the plot it might seem obvious why this is the case, but it’s the characters who really shine throughout this wild ride. Even the smallest of roles are lovingly crafted, the attention to detail giving this novel an abundance of depth from start to finish. May presents the difficult, hard-to-swallow moments in life in a profound and entertaining way, all the while demonstrating the acts of everyday kindness that keep us going. Fans of Uplit will be delighted by We Don’t Die of Love — strictly, I wouldn’t say it falls into that category, but many moments gave me that cliché ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling when you’re reminded about the good in life. 


What Magic Is This?, Holly Bourne

Young Adult | Barrington Stoke | £7.99 | Buy Here

Sophia, Mia and Alexis are clinging on to a spark of hope that maybe – just maybe – they’re special. But could they really be witches with the power to cast life-changing spells? When the three friends gather to cheer up heartbroken Sophia, they’re ready to put their theory to the test. But when long-held secrets are revealed and hard truths start to hit home, their night of bewitching quickly takes an unexpected turn…

At a time where young girls’ self-esteem is being affected by everything from Instagram to the media, What Magic Is This? is a desperately needed and timely title. Our three protagonists are each facing some personal demons that teenagers often grapple with trying to get through secondary school, with Bourne delicately handling and revealing some of the darker problems the girls feel inclined to hide. It teaches self-love, the importance of female friendships, how to reach out for help and open communication with those you love. It’s uplifting to see such a positive narrative around teenagers working out their problems, treating each of the characters and their plight with the seriousness they deserve. I’ll be immediately gifting this to every young person in my life—and I’ll admit, as a 24 year-old woman I was grateful for the lessons in these pages too. 


The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd

Non-Fiction | Canongate | £14.99 | Buy here

This August, Canongate will release a gorgeous gift edition of this much-loved book to coincide with the launch of the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing; the beauty of the cover well and truly reflecting the content within. If you haven’t come across Nan Shepherd and The Living Mountain yet, now is the perfect time to do so. This is perhaps the most outstanding piece of outdoors writing, with Shepherd’s poetic prose transporting you to the slopes of the Cairngorms. With a vividness that bites like hillside breeze, each time I pick up this gem I find something new and am struck by the powerful, ever-changing meaning found within Shepherd’s words. 


The Art of Dying, Ambrose Parry

Historical Crime| Canongate | £14.99 | Buy Here

Edinburgh, 1849. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson. A whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Hot on the heels of the successful debut The Way of All Flesh, crime-writing duo Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman unite once again to bring audiences another dose of Ambrose Parry. Will Raven and Sarah Fisher continue to be sharp and animated characters, brought to life against the backdrop of a wonderfully crafted 19th century Edinburgh. The growth of the women’s movement is a delightful feminist thread weaving through the narrative, Sarah’s growing awareness of women’s oppression fuelled by her admiration for activists and radical writing at the time. If you enjoyed the first instalment you won’t be disappointed—there’s as much action, medicine and mystery as you’d hope and the pace had me flying through the pages once again. I expect the third will be equally as explosive. 

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