Jarlshof, the Earl's House (see The Pirate below). Photo: Sophie Whitehead
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying getting through my reading list recently; and what better way to enjoy a place, without visiting, than through the pages of a well-written book.
In this blog, I have selected my top 10 Shetland fiction reads which I hope you too will enjoy and savour until you can visit. So draa in a chair and start reading ...
Shadowed Valley by John. J. Graham
Although the book is a work of fiction, it is based on fact and is provocatively brought to life in the careful prose of Graham, one of Shetland’s great writers.
J.J. Graham is also responsible for Strife in the Valley and The Shetland Dictionary, an indispensable guide to our local dialect.
Thin Wealth by Robert Alan Jamieson
He writes a lively narrative and paints vivid pictures of a bygone Shetland that I will only ever know through words.
Another favourite of mine by Robert Alan Jamieson is Soor Hearts – a captivating read of murder and mystery at the turn of the 19th century.
Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series: Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones, Blue Lightning, Dead Water, Thin Air, Cold Earth & Wild Fire.
I offer Shetland TV Series tours, you can find out more about these here.
The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack
The Valley is where generations have lived, traditions have been passed down, new faces have built on the fabric of the community and integrated into the Valley’s rhythm.
Dancing with the Ferryman by Frankie Valente
Frankie Valente has written numerous books, including Dreaming in Norwegian, also set in Shetland and based around the Shetland Bus. But for those stomach-flip moments, Dancing with the Ferryman is unrivalled. So remember, when you visit, give the ferrymen a wink, as you never know where it might lead...
Catherine of Deepdale by Millie Vigor
Lowrie by Joseph Gray
Written in the Shetland dialect, this is well worth the effort, but be warned, if you’re a non-Shetland reader, you might want to invest in The Shetland Dictionary to accompany this read!
The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott
The Pirate is based loosely on the life of a pirate, John Gow as Captain Cleveland and it was set around 1700. A captivating tale of shipwreck, love, loss and piracy. An interesting side note appears from the story: In the book, Scott uses the Laird’s House at ‘Jarlshof’ (now in ruin) as a setting in the novel. It is from this description that the archaeological site takes its name. The literal translation comes from the Old Norse ‘Jarl’, meaning Earl, and the German ‘Haus’, meaning house – so Jarlshof translates as the ‘Earl’s House’.
Probably the most challenging read on this list, but if historic writers float your boat then this one’s worth a bash!
Often when we read book suggestions, they focus solely on adult reads, and as a mother, this can be frustrating as, let’s face it, none of us wants to read another Peppa Pig book – ever again. So for my final picks, here are a few for younger readers – and their long-suffering parents!
A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter
A Midsummer Foy by Janice Armstrong and Meilo So
This book certainly has all the good-feelings of a Shetland summer, and is beautifully presented in hardback format.
This is by no means an extensive list. I am aware that I have omitted some of Shetland’s best-known writers including, Jessie Saxby, a prolific writer and folklorist, and J.J. Haldane Burgess who wrote so much and gave us the famous Up Helly Aa song! To choose favourites from them would be almost impossible. For today’s reader, the selection above gives a far more accessible and current look at Shetland’s culture through the eyes of contemporary writers.
“Visitors want to have the best experience; they want to see Shetland through the eyes of a local. They want to taste the salt on their faces, smell the sea and bear witness to the wind in their hair. They want to drink in the sights, the smells and the sounds of an island community. They want to be shown the places they would otherwise not discover. They want to piece together the fascinating jigsaw and truly discover Shetland; this is the trip they have dreamed of.”
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A little about Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.