discovering that the past is not all it has seemed. he uncovers some ugly facts about his hitherto simple home life.
Moving towards an appropriately medieval climax. Middleton presents an unusual approach to orthodox historiography. Daring in the conceptual leaps he demands from readers. he is brave. but not entirely successful. His imagery may be strong. and his characters well-portrayed. but his mental pole-vaulting and timewarps could be more tightly drawn. and, since his subject is already complicated enough. less fogged by atmospheric vagueness. (Rosemary Goring)
I Mary Swarm Carol Shields (Fourth Estate £12.99) An outstanding and inspired poet. Mary Swann has the literary world puzzled. Her life. spent in total isolation in rural Ontario, was notable only for its lack ofevent and for the gruesome, seemingly motiveless murder which ended it. Her access to literature was restricted to the local provincial library and she had few friends to speak of. Can her literary genius really have been born ofnothing? In Carol Shields’ meticulous and adventurous novel. three accomplished academics reveal their fascination for this enigmatic character and the one person who did know her a little, sickly librarian Rose Hindmarch. is pathetically grateful for the importance their curiosity affords her.
Shields‘ subtle prose exposes the wolfishness of academics who. even when they are essentially well-meaning. can persuade themselves to disregard or even to destroy evidence which threatens the neat conclusions of their own research. The result is a fascinating and thought-provoking book which never lets the reader‘s attention slip. It is a pity that publishers in Britain have waited for Margaret Atwood fever to take off before bringing out more Canadian literature. It is certainly time we saw more ofCarol Shields. (Miranda France)
NO FUN, EXCITEMENT, TRAVEL
I The Big Wheel Bruce Thomas (Viking£12.99) Thomas used to be bass player with Elvis Costello and the Attractions. a quite impressive claim to fame and by far the most interesting thing about either him or his not terribly gripping first book. a lightly fictionalised account of boredom on rock‘s lost highway. No searing sex. drugs and payola scandals here — although he does do some coke at one point and it makes him feel a bit ill — or even juicy insights into the enigmatic Elvis. Thomas just rambles on about everywhere looking the same ‘on the road’, going to the seaside with his
family when he was little. being in no-hoper psychedelic bands before he got famous and. er. the nature of time (he thinks it‘s like a big wheel). To come to the point. unlike timewaster Thomas, I can‘t imagine why anyone would want to read this book. (Andrea Baxter).
I Scotland in Trust Jenni Calder (Richard Drew. £15.95) Marking the National Trust for Scotland‘s 60th anniversary and complementing the Glenda Jackson TV series. comes a coffee-table book which rises above the status ofelaborate coaster and is more than a mere advertising vehicle for the Trust.
Sectioned according to the nature of the land or property, we are led from barren rocks to splendid castles. silent battlefields to crusty cottages.
Jenni Calder. author ofRLS: A Life Study and responsible for the penning ofa new ending to RLS‘s unfinished St Ives has provided a minutely-detailed historical text peppered with lively asides to halt the rot of names and numbers. Although not a comprehensive account of Scotland‘s history. being concerned with Trust properties only. it certainly covers a lot of turf but beware the index — it is somewhat erratic. Tasteful and attractive illustrations provide the gloss. (Susan Mackenzie)
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I Hanging On: Diaries 1960-63 Frances Partridge (Collins£15) I‘m always wary ofdiaries written with a view to publication. but despite the expected self- conciousness. Hanging On is written with an endearing sincerity and clarity. The book documents Partridge‘s traumatic three years following the death of her husband. Ralph. While picking her way through a minefield ofgrief, she questions the very purpose of survival. At times one senses that all activity is merely a futile distraction in the void of loss. This morbid element is balanced by her progressive resolution together with her gentle humour and inherent love oflife and thought.
The diaries will be of particular interest to Bloomsbury Group enthusiasts. As the oldest surviving member. Frances Partridge is able to provide unusual glimpses of these celebrated intellectuals. in their sometimes pathetic declining years. (Charlie Llewellyn)
I On the Trail of the Jacobites Ian and Kathleen Whyte (Routledge £25). This book has been conceived with a worthy aim: to dispel the romantic myths surrounding the Jacobite uprisings. By placing Jacobitism
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WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME, IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE SCOTTISH FOUNDATION
firmly in a British political context. and by chronicling the movement’s half-century ofactivity, the authors distance the Jacobites from the kilted. misty Highlands of 1745. They search past characters and motives for a truer reading of the movement, and give a wealth of background knowledge. Sympathies still seem to lie with the Jacobites. but then perhaps ‘lost‘ causes are romantic The real strength. however. lies in the geographical references. The \ reader is able to follow the protagonists out of the traditional heather-clad image. and into the urban squalor ofthe 18th century. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have provided inspiration to thousands of Dorothy Dunnetts. but this book shows that his comrades at least are not as one-dimensionally heroic as is traditionally believed. (Lisa Barnes)
I Means 0t Ascent: The years of Lyndon Johnson Robert A. Caro (Bodley Head £20). The second in Caro‘s no-stone-unturned study of LBJ. Means OfAscent goes way beyond routine political biography. to provide a gripping insight into one of the hugest egos ever to hold public office, and his penchant for gaining power by the most devious, unscrupulous and downright crooked means.
Author of critically acclaimed 'CALL ME WOMAN ' (Women's Press £5. 95)
She will be reading from her new book
SIT DOWN AND LISTEN (Women's Press £4.95) FRI 21st SEPTEMBER - 8pm
Refreshments will be served Please call in for tickets or Tel. 041-221 0890
132 UNION ST. GLASGOW G1
The List 14927 September 199085