Although I am a city girl through-and-through, sometimes I can’t help but crave a country escape. There’s definitely something special about being in the presence of breathtaking natural landscapes and gorgeous views like the one above – the sort of beauty that the city just can’t offer! And as springtime beckons, I’m feeling in the mood to share some of my favourite day trips from Glasgow. Perfect for any city-dweller or overseas visitor alike, these are three stunning West Scottish locations that you should definitely visit at some point!
Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests is part family saga, part ghostly wasteland, part – well, who really knows? The acclaimed writer, who is well-known for her historical set-pieces scarred by the ugliness of emotion and the unsightly depths that lurk beneath each of us, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction for her first novel The Outcast. It was a promising narrative that grew just a bit unbelievable towards the end – which is, rather unsurprisingly, my exact assessment of The Uninvited Guests.
Set over a 24 hour time span, the novel follows Emerald on her twentieth birthday; she’s just found out that her beloved family manor will probably have to be sold and she still has to plan for an impending birthday dinner. But then, just as the guests are arriving, news comes of a shocking railway disaster nearby – and with it, a flock of bedraggled survivors who have come to seek refuge…
Vienna is the loveliest city. It’s as simple as that: it is a city of palatial, immaculate townhouses; of sprawling grounds, elegant cafes and exquisite architecture. It is a fairytale city of astonishingly well-kept buildings and incredible, magnificent beauty. Vienna is famed for its culture and its history – an intellectual city in which the opulent legacy of the Hapsburgs competes with the enduring influence of some of the world’s greatest classical composers; a city boastful of its endless appreciation of opera and music.
I stayed in an amazingly convenient apartment just off the Ringstrasse – the famed ring of streets meticulously created in the mid-nineteenth century, encompassing the historical district and an impressive array of beautiful buildings. All the guidebooks recommend walking or getting the tram around the Ring, and it is a suggestion that I would definitely second. In a four-mile walk alone, you can take in the Parliament, with its sweeping drive; the Rathaus, the City Hall, neo-Gothic and exceptionally intricate; the Burgtheater, adorned with busts of Vienna’s favourite playwrights; the dazzlingly complex Hofburg Complex, home to the famous Spanish Riding School; and so much more.
Last year I reviewed, and loved, John le Carre’s famous George Smiley novels, beginning with Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy. When I found A Small Town in Germany hiding away at the back of my dad’s bookcase, I was very excited for much of the same: quick-witted character insights, twisting and complicated spy plots, wonderfully realised worlds of Cold War-era deception and intrigue.
Of course, A Small Town in Germany was not bereft of any of these elements. The action centres around the British Embassy in Bonn (the capital of West Germany), where a junior official has disappeared, along with numerous top-secret files. Suspicious spy renegade Alan Turner is sent over from London to investigate, but it’s imperative that the Germans don’t find out about the Embassy’s breach: because Communist-leaning rabble rouser Karfeld is stirring up trouble in Bonn.
So far, so John le Carre. Long yet snappy interrogation scenes are interspersed with high-level bureaucratic drama; personalities clash and boundaries are crossed, while all the time the absent figure of Leo Harting hovers ever closer like an ominous spectre – his motivations unearthed inch by absorbing inch. It’s all very engrossing – up to a point.
Although I’ve been posting a lot of travel writing lately, unfortunately life isn’t all jetting off to Europe, wandering around beautiful sights and taking endless photos. (Although sometimes I can’t help but wish it was!) But as I mentioned in my blog post How To Be A Tourist in Your Own City, you don’t have to be travelling all the time to appreciate the culture and history around you. I love of my home city of Glasgow, but I rarely explore it in the way that it deserves – can you believe that I hadn’t even been to half of the top Tripadvisor attractions since I was a child? So part of my (belated) New Years’ Resolutions is to make more effort to be a tourist now and then. Welcome to the first part of my Glasgow Guides: a selection of three of the best museums the city has to offer!
Eowyn Ivey’s adapted fairy-tale The Snow Child has garnered lots of sparkling reviews. This will not be one of them.
I started out reading with high hopes: beautiful blue cover, sprinkled with snowflakes; a historical novel set in Alaska in the 1920s; a child who appeared out of nowhere, possibly carved by the snow… Although I do have some niggling problems with magical realism – let fantasy be fantasy and reality be reality, okay?? – I had to read this for my university course, and I’ll admit that I was happy for my opinion to be changed.
But, unfortunately, it wasn’t. The plot follows a middle-aged childless couple Mabel and Jack, whose recent move to the wilderness of Alaska has caused their already fragile relationship to disintegrate. Desperate for a child, they are both wary – and delighted – when they discover the mysterious Faina on their homestead. She’s young, reticent and shy – with a home in the mountains and skin that could cool frost.
Although I don’t profess to be the know-all purveyor of novelistic taste, I feel like I do know enough to pin-point the basic weaknesses of The Snow Child. Continue reading “Book Review: The Snow Child”
Arguably the best thing about a weekend away in February is the sense that, come rain or shine, the weather really can’t get much worse. Arriving in Dublin on a grey and misty afternoon certainly doesn’t promise a break from the gloominess of winter, but the lure of cheap flights (£30 return was just too much to resist) and a break from dissertation stress is enough to justify a mid-semester weekend away to Ireland’s bustling capital even on the rainiest of days.