MacCloud Falls

Robert Alan Jamieson

Luath Press, £9.99

Gil Johnson, a cancer survivor from Edinburgh, travels to Canada to research a book about James Lyle, an ethnographer whom he believes was his grandfather. Embarking on the first big journey of his life, he meets Veronika, who has also had cancer, and their friendship becomes the core around which Jamieson’s themes develop. Concerned that he may have a death wish, Veronika follows Johnson to British Columbia, where she finds that he’s been writing a fictionalised version of their time together. Colonialism, cultural appropriation and the power of names play major roles in Johnson’s Canadian odyssey, during which he sees how Scottish settlers moulded the country, overwriting indigenous place names in a similar manner to the way he has rewritten Veronika.

Parallel Lives

Phyllis Rose

Daunt, £10.99

Rose’s classic text first came out in 1983, and screenwriter Nora Ephron is said to have re-read it every four years. It’s a study of Victorian marriage through five couples: Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle, Effie Gray and John Ruskin, Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill, Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens, George Eliot and George Henry Lewes. Each relationship she sees as “a struggle for imaginative dominance” as each partner sought to impose their own narrative on it. The happiest were easily Eliot and Lewes, who considered themselves married under natural law, not the law of the land, because Lewes never divorced his unfaithful wife. “Gossip,” Rose writes, “may be the beginning of moral inquiry,” and these biographical portraits absorb and fascinate, not only for what they tell us about the couples’ private lives but for the light they shed on Victorian models of sexuality, authority and deference. In each, there is a power struggle which reflects the ideologies of the time.

A People’s History of Heaven

Mathangi Subramanian

Oneworld, £8.99

The “Heaven” of the novel’s title is the name given to a slum in Bangalore, where the differences between residents are ironed out by their shared poverty. Out of this community, Subramanian focuses on five schoolgirls – Banu, Deepa, Joy, Rukshana and Padma – who want to save it from impending demolition. Joy is transgender, Deepa nearly blind, Rukshana gay and Muslim, Padma comes from the country and hears her accent becoming more watered down the longer she spends in Bangalore. Although the overarching plot is about their fight to save the neighbourhood from being bulldozed, Subramanian delves into each of the girls’ backstories, their relationships with their mothers and the issues that affect them as poor Indian women, like forced sterilisation, arranged marriage and the glaring gap between rich and poor. For all that they have to face, it’s a warm, bouyant celebration of womanhood, humanity and solidarity, perched on the brink between YA and adult fiction.


News from trusted and credible sources is essential at all times, but especially now as the coronavirus pandemic impacts on all aspects of our lives. To make sure you stay informed during this difficult time our coverage of the crisis is free.

However, producing The Herald's unrivalled analysis, insight and opinion on a daily basis still costs money and, as our traditional revenue streams collapse, we need your support to sustain our quality journalism.

To help us get through this, we’re asking readers to take a digital subscription to The Herald. You can sign up now for just £2 for two months.

If you choose to sign up, we’ll offer a faster loading, advert-light experience – and deliver a digital version of the print product to your device every day. Click here to help The Herald: Thank you, and stay safe.