I described this in an earlier post as an academic-investigating-the-life-of-a-long-dead-poet novel, which is exactly what it is. Murray Watson is taking a sabbatical to explore the life of the poet Archie Lunan who drowned at a young age leaving behind a slim volume of poetry and an air of unfulfilled promise. Murray wants to write the book that will bring Lunan back to prominence once more (and establish his own reputation in the process, of course).
Why did I want to read this?
I’ve been working my way slowly through Louise Welsh’s back catalogue and she is rapidly becoming one of my favourite modern authors. I just really like her books 🙂
What did I think of it?
I am an absolute sucker for stories about academics doing research on anything (see my review of the John Langan collection recently where my favourite story was about that very thing, though in the context of a horror tale), and when coupled with being set in Glasgow (virtually my home town though I went to the other University) this was a no brainer for me.
It helps that it’s a really strong story with a mystery element as well as lots of personal stuff about Murray’s family background and collegiate rivalry and a climax set on a fairly remote island, all adding up to a very enjoyable read. I really liked Murray, flawed though he is, and the other key characters were just as fascinating and true to life. And there was enough sense of Archie Lunan to find him believable as a real person overtaken by his own legend, but avoids the trap of representing too much of his work so you don’t get caught up in whether it’s actually any good or not.
I’m looking forward to reading the other books by Louise Welsh that I already have in the stacks. The Bullet Trick and Tamburlaine Must Die are the only ones left, and I think I will then have caught up, annoyingly. Recommended.