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Spring is just around the corner! It's the time when we're ready to venture outdoors again, and yet still have the urge (especially with our infamous Scottish weather) to stay cosy and coorie in. In this month's issue we celebrate nature's bounty as well as our home comforts with great fiction, memoirs, cookery, travel and childrens' books. Dive in and enjoy!

Leila Aboulela gives readers a unique take on the road trip novel, as Kristian Kerr discovers in reading her latest novel Bird Summons.

 

Bird Summons By Leila Aboulela Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

 

Is there a Great Scottish Road Trip? The North Coast 500 claims that crown and, in its wake, new routes are opening up Scotland’s landscape and beckoning travellers to all corners of the land. The South West Coastal 300 and the North East 250 seem especially designed to lure tourists to forgotten corners. Drove roads, Roman roads, roads to the isles have crisscrossed the country since the earliest times bringing trade and connection. Not a road but a path, the Fife Pilgrim Way opens in 2019, reminding us that spiritual journeys were the earliest form of tourism. Into the midst of this feverish waymarking comes Bird Summons, Leila Aboulela’s new novel, and it brings us an illuminating, fantastical, contemporary Scottish road trip filled with humour, humanity and the unexpected.

Three women set out from Dundee on a journey conceived as an official excursion of the Arabic Speaking Muslim Women’s Group. Salma, their leader, had devised it with a lofty purpose, as an educational exercise that would foster integration through a better understanding of the history of Islam in Britain. They are to visit the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold at Glencarron in Wester Ross. Cobbold, whose Arabic name was Zainab, was a daughter of an Earl of Dunmore brought up in Cairo and Algiers in the late nineteenth century. She declared herself a Muslim during, of all things, a private audience with the Pope and, in 1933, she became the first British woman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. At her burial in 1963, a piper played a lament and an Imam from Woking officiated because there were none close at hand.

While Zainab’s story will come to mean something to...

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Alan Brown is some adventurer! In his new book, Overlander, he shares his story of one man and his bike, and a whole lot of stunning – if tricky to navigate – scenery.

 

Extract taken from Overlander By Alan Brown Published by Saraband

 

It’s only a short distance up the glen to the planned stop for the night – a bothy three kilometres away. The track up is loose but easy to ride, closely hemmed in by the trees at the start but opening out with a great view up the glen in the evening sunshine.

Bothies come in all shapes and sizes and all states of repair, and what little I’ve found online gives only a vague picture of the state of the building. When we reach the location, it is not that easy to spot as it’s set back some way from the track and nestled in among some mature broadleaved woods that run down from the steep crag above. The crag is cut in two by...

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The Whale, The Sea and the Stars click

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‘You have shores to discover and creatures to meet.’

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David Robinson Reviews: The World I Fell Out Of by Melanie Reid click

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‘The real underlying strength of this book is in the quality of its cliche-free, unsentimental reportage from this occasionally brave new world in which Mel finds herself.’

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‘A great warming but fresh soup: you can eat it chunky, but if you blend it then you will really taste the nutty flavour of the chickpeas.’

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‘This is not just another Nessie tale, it’s a MONSTER story…’

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‘Heady Hendricks looked like a million dollars … and he smelled like he had just bathed in Hai Karate.’

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The Animal Adventure Club: The Baby Deer Rescue click

The Animal Adventure Club: The Baby Deer Rescue

‘There, almost hidden in the long grass, was a tiny golden fawn. Its head was caught in the wires and it was crying pitifully.’

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On the Ocean: Mandy Haggith on The Amber Seeker click

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‘What sort of culture clash, I wondered, would have existed between a Greek scientist and his Celtic hosts? The seed of a novel was sown.’

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