Coasts and Waters
Celebrating VisitScotland's Year of Coasts and Waters, this issue brings you reading that takes you all around the country and may leave you gasping for breath! We have stories centred on myth and history, crime fiction centred round whisky, and a whole lot of love for Scotland's natural beauty. It's time to dive in!
To the Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace By Kapka Kassabova Published by Granta Books
With her last book, Border, Kapka Kassabova won the inaugural Highland Book Prize and the 2017 Saltire Book of the Year, and was either shortlisted or won a further half dozen awards. An exploration of the borderlands of the south-east Balkans, it cast new light on a neglected corner of Europe, mixing memoir with a sophisticated study of cultural intermingling.
Her new book, To the Lake, does exactly the same thing – except instead of taking her readers around and across the intersecting frontiers of Greece, Turkey and her native Bulgaria, she takes them around and across the equally neglected borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. It is a story that can almost, but not entirely, be told around the shorelines of two lakes – Prespa and Ohrid.
Let me try to explain where they are. When the Romans wanted a fast overland route to Constantinople, they started half-way down the coast of what is now Albania, and marched west through the mountains to Thessalonika. This, the first half of the Via Egnatia, is by far the toughest part, but a third of the way along it, they would at least have the consolation of seeing Lake Ohrid. This is where Kassabova’s maternal ancestors lived, owning orchards and living by its shores right down to her grandmother Anastassia’s time.
This land has been shuffled around between different rulers so frequently that it would be farcical had not whole lakes of blood also been shed in the process: when Bulgaria lost ownership of it in 1944, for example, it was for the fourth...
Extract taken from Leith-Built Ships, Volume 1: They Once Were Shipbuilders By R. O. Neish Published by Whittles Publishing
‘On the island, the sea was what separated women from men. Women weren’t taken by the water. Instead, mothers were drained by the dropping tears over the bodies of their dead sons.’
‘But I persisted, and together we managed to find a believable way to hide a body in a whisky cask. . .’
‘The water humbles us. That is a common refrain. It puts us in our place, and reminds us of who we are. And we are grateful for that.’
‘I touched the pottery fish bead one last time. If I had another, I would have left it here, nose to tail with this one, like her star sign, Pisces.’
‘The Scottish coastline remains one of the most magical, unspoiled places in the world for relaxation and discovery, exploration and adventure.’
‘Witherbys is one of Scotland’s largest and most successful publishing houses, with a portfolio of over 400 specialist titles that are exported to over 110 countries.’
‘With each length, I loosen off. Shoulders, hips, wrists, ankles, neck. Heart pumps. Lungs swell.’