Bookmark and Share

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Long and the Short of it

Two recommended books from my recently read pile - one very short, (about109 pages, although it is so short the pages aren't numbered) the other much longer, 410 packed pages.

First - the short one.

Sum - Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

This is one of those books I long to give to any narrow-minded, fundamentalist bigot, with a fixed view of God and the cosmos. But I am fairly sure that there won't be any reading this blog, so it is a good job that it is also a mind-expanding read for the rest of us too.

The book posits various afterlives as a series of short stories. What is genius about it is that it suggests what we might perceive as a good idea for an afterlife, but these nirvanas quickly reverse into making us think about, and appreciate, what we already have right here, right now.

For me it felt like opening the curtains and letting great gusts of fresh air into the room. Eagleman is a neuroscientist, but don't let that put you off - here is inventive spiritual questioning at its most sane.

Now, the long one.

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona McLean.

Dark, grisly,stuffed full of historical detail and the dour dialogue of 17th century Scotland, this is a thriller to read on a cold night with the wind howling outside and rain lashing at the windows.

Alexander Seaton, a failed minister with a past, stumbles upon a murder. In pursuit of the killer and his own redemption he embarks upon a series of travels which take him through the terrors of the witch-hunt, the then-current obsession with Papists, and an encounter with his own demons.

Richly atmospheric, this is not a read for someone looking for a fast-moving plot, although there is plenty of detail to hold the interest. The characters, especially the unlikeable, bitter Alexander seep into the mind somehow, and this makes the final denoument gripping and satisfying.


  1. I'm a big fan of Shona Maclean - I thought the Redemption of Alexander Seaton was a wonderful evocation of time and place as well as a gripping read, plot-wise. His people are real and memorable, particularly Alexander himself.
    I've read her next book too- A Game of Sorrows - which is set in Ireland amongst Alexander's unsuspected extended family and, again, it presents a time and place in a very vivid manner, as well as deepening Alexander's character and developing some of the themes that extend out from the first book into this one.
    I gather the next is out in August...

  2. Oh thanks Alis, I'll get the next one on order.

  3. Hah, just noticed I referred to 'his people' - too busy thinking about Alexander rather than his creater, Shona!