The Highland Book Prize announced the 4 titles that have been selected for the 2021 shortlist. Established in 2017, this literary prize celebrates the finest published work that recognizes the rich talent, landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands.
The winner of the Highland Book Prize will be revealed on the May 26, 2022, at an event held in Inverness. The winning author will receive a prize of £1000 and a place on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor. The shortlist is as follows:
Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean by David Alston
Scots were involved in every stage of the slave trade: from captaining slaving ships to auctioning captured Africans in the colonies and hunting down those who escaped from bondage. This book focuses on the Scottish Highlanders who engaged in or benefitted from these crimes against humanity in the Caribbean Islands and Guyana, some reluctantly but many with enthusiasm and without remorse. Their voices are clearly heard in the archives, while in the same sources their victims’ stories are silenced – reduced to numbers and listed as property.
David Alston gives voice not only to these Scots but to enslaved Africans and their descendants – to those who reclaimed their freedom, to free women of colour, to the Black Caribs of St Vincent, to house servants, and to children of mixed race who found themselves in the increasingly racist society of Britain in the mid-1800s.
As Scots recover and grapple with their past, this vital history lays bare the enormous wealth generated in the Highlands by slavery and emancipation compensation schemes. This legacy, entwined with so many of our contemporary institutions, must be reckoned with. (Credit: Edinburgh University Press)
In a Veil of Mist by Donald S. Murray
A poisoned breeze blows across the waves … Operation Cauldron, 1952: Top-secret germ warfare experiments on monkeys and guinea pigs are taking place aboard a vessel moored off the Isle of Lewis. Local villagers Jessie and Duncan encounter strange sights on the deserted beach nearby and suspect the worst. And one government scientist wrestles with his own inner anguish over the testing, even if he believes extreme deterrent weapons are needed. When a noxious cloud of plague bacteria is released into the path of a passing trawler, disaster threatens. Will a deadly pandemic be inevitable? A haunting exploration of the costs and fallout of warmongering, Donald S Murray follows his prize-winning first novel with an equally moving exploration of another little-known incident in the Outer Hebridean island where he grew up. (Credit: Saraband)
Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn
This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place.
In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America’s fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods.
This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.
By turns haunted and hopeful, this luminously written world study is pinned together with profound insight and new ecological discoveries that together map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we’re gone, and how far can our damage to nature be undone? (Credit: HarperCollins Publishers)
The Stone Age by Jen Hadfield
Jen Hadfield’s new collection is an astonished beholding of the wild landscape of her Shetland home, a tale of hard-won speech, and the balm of the silence it rides upon. The Stone Age builds steadily to a powerful and visionary panpsychism: in Hadfield’s telling, everything – gate and wall, flower and rain, shore and sea, the standing stones whose presences charge the land – has a living consciousness, one which can be engaged with as a personal encounter.
The Stone Age is a timely reminder that our neurodiversity is a gift: we do not all see the world the world in the same way, and Hadfield’s lyric line and unashamedly high-stakes wordplay provide nothing less than a portal into a different kind of being. The Stone Age is the work of a singular artist at the height of her powers – one which dramatically extends and enriches the range of our shared experience. (Credit: Pan Macmillan)