Anne Fine is a leading children's author who has also had acclaim for her adult fiction. She was Britain's second Children's Laureate, from 2001 to 2003, and twice winner of the Carnegie Medal for children's books. Anne lives in County Durham, England.
The first Scottish book to have a great effect on me was The Wind on the Moon, by Eric Linklater. I never actually read it, but it sat on the shelf by my bed all through my childhood, and I was haunted by its title. The very idea of a wind on the moon set my thoughts spinning each night and coloured my dreams. I’ve read it since, of course. And, to be honest, it’s pretty strange, telling the story of Dinah and Dorinda (no strangers to magic) smuggling themselves across Europe to rescue their father from the villain’s dungeon. Pumas, dancing masters, ostrich eggs, removal vans. Think of ten off-the-wall things, and I’ll bet you’ll find eight of them in this book.
When I was twenty one, we moved to Edinburgh. I'd never before lived in a city and, though I grew to love the spacious Georgian New Town with its huge prospects and racing skies, I found the Old Town overpoweringly gloomy and oppressive. I still recall pushing the pushchair between those toweringly high buildings, still sooty black.
Then, in the library, I came across The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. This astounding piece of work opened my eyes to a Scotland I hadn’t seen. From that day on, I stopped thinking about the place (albeit unconsciously) in my jejune and simplistic terms of just 'not English'. It’s a dark and disturbing read, with a macabre stranger egging Colwan (one of the Calvinist 'saved') on to commit a series of horrible crimes. It’s a book to make the reader shiver and disquiet him for years. Where better to read it than in one of those grisly dark haunts that never see the sun in Edinburgh's Old Town?
I suspect A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon is one of the most underestimated novels ever. It’s such a human book. The characters become so real to us because, in following their lives, we see the echoes of our own. Each path we choose will close off others for ever. Will Chris move away to widen her own cultural horizons, or will she stay, steeped in the Lowlands world she values so much? I read this just as we left for America. All through the next seven years, there was an underlying decision for us both: to stay or return. I'm glad I read it when I did.
Anne Fine's Favourite Books
- Add to BasketThe Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner - - Paperback
Set in early 18th century Scotland, this novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist upbringing by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. Could this stranger be a figment of the imagination, or the devil himself?