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  • Alistair Braidwood

Five Alive: The Best Fiction From 2014…

It’s been impossible to pick up a paper this weekend without facing a ‘best of’ list, and I imagine you’ll have had your fill, but if you can squeeze in one more here’s Scots Whay Hae!’s books of the year.

Just bubbling under are Doug Johnstone’s The Dead Beat, Louise Welsh’s A Lovely Way To Burn, Dilys Rose’s Pelmanism, Alan Warner’s Their Lips Talk of Mischief and Kirsty Logan’s short story collection The Rental Heart, and if I was considering non-fiction then Zoe Howe’s The Jesus and Mary Chain biog Barbed Wire Kisses, the anthology of womens’ art and writing, 21 Revolutions, and Peter Ross’s collection of essays, Daunderlust would all be in contention, but I’ve stuck to five, they’re fiction, and they’re fabulous. Here’s what was said at the time of review:

Layla – Nina de la Mer

Layla is a triumph as a novel, and as a character. It’s not always an easy read, and nor should it be. Many of the characters in it are horrific, more so to the reader than to the more trusting Layla, but they never become caricatures, partly because de la Mer’s eye for detail and understanding of the way people speak lends them distinct personalities. It’s easy to believe that they too are chasing that something intangible, (fame, wealth, power?) that we have been promised is available to us all, and which Layla is learning is a lie. If you are looking for glamour and thrills you should take yourself elsewhere. Instead Layla is an honest and powerful depiction of the life of a woman who finds her self in an all too believable situation. Where such a novel could have been judgemental and patronising, Nina de la Mer finds empathy and emotion, so much so that you won’t be able to put it down until you have to say goodbye.

Chiew-Siah Tei – The Mouse Deer Kingdom

Any Other Mouth – Anneliese Mackintosh

Ron Butlin – Ghost Moon

How To Be Both – Ali Smith*

My book of the year has to be Ali Smith’s How to Be Both. In 2012 Smith published a collection of essays called Artful, and that’s exactly what this novel is. Smith takes the idea that there are two sides to every story and explores it in the most wonderfully life affirming and unexpected manner. She touches upon favourite themes of art, sexuality, death and religion, and plays with them in a manner which is vivid, vibrant and complex, with a style so elegant it takes the breath away. Ali Smith reminds us of what fiction can do at its very best.

*(From The Bottle Imp’s Books of the Year. A full review of How To Be Both will be here soon).

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