The Highland Book Prize announced the 12 titles that have been selected for the 2022 longlist. Established in 2017, this literary prize celebrates the finest published work that recognizes the rich talent, landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands.
The shortlist will be announced in April of 2023 and the winner will be revealed on the May 2023, at an event hosted by the Ullapool Book Festival, the Highland Society of London and Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre. The winning book will receive a prize of £1000 and a place on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor. Now for the longlist:
Belonging: Natural histories of place, identity and home by Amanda Thomson
Reflecting on family, identity and nature, Belonging is a personal memoir about what it is to have and make a home. It is a love letter to nature, especially the northern landscapes of Scotland and the Scots pinewoods of Abernethy – home to standing dead trees known as snags, which support the overall health of the forest.
Belonging is a book about how we are held in thrall to elements of our past. It speaks to the importance of attention and reflection, and will encourage us all to look and observe and ask questions of ourselves.
Beautifully written and featuring Amanda Thomson’s artwork and photography throughout, it explores how place, language and family shape us and make us who we are. (Credit: Canongate Books)
Companion Piece by Ali Smith
‘ A story is never an answer. A story is always a question.’
Here we are in extraordinary times.
Is this history?
What happens when we cease to trust governments, the media, each other?
What have we lost?
What stays with us?
What does it take to unlock our future?
Following her astonishing quartet of Seasonal novels, Ali Smith again lights a way for us through the nightmarish now, in a vital celebration of companionship in all its forms.
‘Every hello, like every voice, holds its story ready, waiting.’ (Credit: Penguin Books)
This is the story of a young, ambitious art dealer who transformed an unused rural church in Inverness-shire into one of the country’s top commercial art galleries. It begins with the enigmatic Black Allan opening the door of an abandoned kirk in rural Inverness-shire and follows with its shoestring-budget adaption to a new life, and it ends with an environmental call for change – a call for awakening.
Along the way, as Tony grows the gallery, we travel across Scotland and are introduced to the rarely seen world of Scottish artists. It suggests the purpose and beauty of what they do, and shows, with brilliant storytelling, one way to survive quarter of a century of rapid change. This is Tony Davidson’s debut novel. (Credit: Woodwose Books)
Crann-Fìge / Fig Tree: Short Stories by Duncan Gillies
A new collection of short stories from the author of Tocasaid ’Ain Tuirc, bringing the same sharp wit and observational skill to this evocation of Lewis life and people from last century intertwined with stories situated elsewhere, and giving as authentic a voice to an angry child’s resentment, a woman’s regret or an old man’s fears.
Duncan Gillies is from Knockaird, in Ness, the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis. Fig Tree is his fourth published collection of short stories and the ﬁrst book of his in which Gaelic and English appear together, side by side. (Credit: Acair)
Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary, Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson
Mary, Queen of Scots’ marriage to the Earl of Bothwell is notorious. Less known is Bothwell’s first wife, Jean Gordon, who extricated herself from their marriage and survived the intrigue of the Queen’s court. Daughters of the North reframes this turbulent period in history by focusing on Jean, who became Countess of Sutherland, following her from her birth as the daughter of the ‘King of the North’ to her disastrous union with the notorious Earl of Bothwell – and her lasting legacy to the Earldom of Sutherland. (Credit: Sandstone Press)
Doras Gun Chlàimhean by Murdo Macfarlane
For the first time, a bilingual anthology of the poems and songs of the Gaelic poet Murdo MacFarlane from Lewis, the Melbost Bàrd, is available in one volume. In addition to his verse, which covers war, emigration, heritage, language and philosophy, a selection of MacFarlane’s other writings in Gaelic and in English, is included. ACD featuring MacFarlane singing a selection of his Gaelic songs serves as a portal to the unique voice of the bàrd. The collection cements his standing as a celebrated Gaelic tradition bearer and language activist of the twentieth century and is a unique and valuable contribution to Gaelic literature. (Credit: Acair Books)
Hindsight: In Search of Lost Wilderness by Jenna Watt
In 2019, Jenna Watt took part in the stalking of a hind on the vast Highland estate of Corrour: part of an immersive attempt to understand the ideas that lie behind ‘rewilding’, and what it means emotionally and physically to participate in Scotland’s deer cull. Piece by piece and chapter by chapter she unravels the story of that one day spent hunting the hind, interlaced with her discovery that her ancestors were deer stalkers, game keepers and ghillies on a Highland estate, who once took part in increasingly controversial land practices like muirburn and species persecution.
This exploration leads her into the complex and often conflict-ridden world of the rewilding movement. She meets the ‘Wolf Man’ of the Highlands, who wants to introduce the first wild wolves back into Scotland for over 300 years; a mountain ecologist who ranges alone across the landscape to track the environmental impact of deer on Scotland’s upland ecosystem; landowners who are reintroducing species like beaver, ospreys and sea-eagles onto their estates; and a female deer stalker, who is trying to introduce more women into the male-dominated world of stalking and game-keeping.
In the process, Jenna comes to better understand the meaning of ‘wildness’, the shifting baselines of ‘rewilding’, and, in a world beset by climate change and species extinction, how to cope, both as an individual and as a society, with the concept of ecological grief. (Credit: Birlinn General)
Objects for Private Devotion by Lydia Harris
Rarely does a collection of poetry reveal a land, a tradition and a history as potently as this one. The islands of Orkney are brought to life through these poems of water, moss, fossils, brochs, handbells and graves; through the lives of those who live there, those who once lived there, and through the ghosts that live on. Harris’s visceral relationship with this land and its stories is devout and compelling. As an exploration of the culture of objects for private devotion, this is almost a book of prayer. (Credit: Pindrop Press)
Seasons of Storm and Wonder by Jim Crumley
A display of head-turning autumn finery on Skye provokes Jim Crumley to contemplate both the glories of the season and how far the seasons themselves have shapeshifted since his early days observing his natural surroundings.
After a lifetime immersed in Scotland’s landscapes and enriched by occasional forays in other northern lands, Jim has amassed knowledge, insight and a bank of memorable imagery chronicling the wonder, tumult and spectacle of nature’s seasonal transformations. He has witnessed not only nature’s unparalleled beauty, but also how climate chaos and humankind has brought unwanted drama to wildlife and widespread destruction of ecosystems and habitats.
In this landmark volume, Jim combines lyrical prose and passionate eloquence to lay bare the impact of global warming and urge us all towards a more daring conservation vision that embraces everything from the mountain treeline to a second spring for the wolf. (Credit: Saraband)
The Last Woman Born On The Island by Sharon Black
The Last Woman Born on the Island is an exploration of the past and the present, and a celebration of the landscapes, both physical and emotional, that make up our lives. What are the colours of the language or languages we speak, and how do they influence the ways we live? Much of this collection is set in the author’s homeland of Scotland. Some poems contemplate the history and traditions of the Highlands and Islands – from the HMS Iolaire disaster off Lewis in 1919 to the knitting of Eriskay ganseys, from the legend of the White Cow at Callanish stone circle to herring girls at the start of the twentieth century. Others consider Scottish languages and parlances, the country’s wildest and most beautiful landscapes, and the effects of tourism on the culture of the Hebrides. Is there is a difference between something lost and something merely forgotten? How do we find what we don’t know we ever had? And what is belonging to a place, let alone to two places? In one long poem, the author stands between her home country and her adopted country of France, letting her feet talk us through the places they have been. Who is the last woman and where is the island? (Credit: Vagabond Voices)
WAH!: Things I Never Told My Mother by Cynthia Rogerson
Cynthia’s mother is dying. Often.
Each time she is called from Scotland to her mother’s deathbed in San Rafael, Cynthia recalls hitchhiking to Mexico, living in a squat overseas, trainhopping with her brother, and all the other things she never told her mother.
Wonderfully witty and refreshingly candid, Wah! is an unflinching look at life in all its uncertain and messy glory. (Credit: Sandstone Press)
Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
Born under different stars, Protestant Mungo and Catholic James live in a hyper-masculine world. They are caught between two of Glasgow’s housing estates where young working-class men divide themselves along sectarian lines, and fight territorial battles for the sake of reputation. They should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all, and yet they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the doocot that James has built for his prize racing pigeons. As they begin to fall in love, they dream of escaping the grey city, and Mungo must work hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his elder brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold.
But the threat of discovery is constant and the punishment unspeakable. When Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland, with two strange men behind whose drunken banter lie murky pasts, he needs to summon all his inner strength and courage to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future. (Credit: Pan Macmillan)