Book Review: The Illustrated Skara

By Bernie Bell

When a person reads a book, they often have their own idea of what the characters look like, and of what the places described in the book look like too. Reading Andrew Appleby’s novel ‘Skara’, I had a very definite idea of what Shala looked like, not so much with Oiwa. He didn’t have a form, in my mind, maybe because he is very much a boy, a youth, and is un-formed. Though Shala is about his age, she, as many girls are, is ‘older’ in her ways, more defined. Maybe that’s it.

And Wrasse – I had a very clear image of Wrasse – I know Wrasse!

The Bald Heads I saw as bikers!  A lot of the younger generation of my family are bikers, and , in particular, some characters I met at my nephew’s wedding came to mind.  That particular nephew is a Hell’s Angel, and some of his Chapter were at his wedding, and the Bald-Heads very much brought them back into my mind. Fine people – friendly, hospitable, but not to be messed with!


(B Bell)

I live on Orkney, so could follow the ‘lie of the land’, as described, though it has changed quite a bit since Shala’s day.  I would have liked a map, as some of  what was land, is now sea. Andrew pointed me in the direction of a map on his website, so I printed it out, and was better able to follow Shala’s travels. In fact, I printed it out and put it up on the wall in our hall-way – with some dolphins disporting themselves above it.

There is also a map of Oiwa’s travels, but the Orkney one spoke more to me of places I know – which is why it went up on the wall!

The maps were very helpful, but I said to  Andrew that they would be even more helpful in the book!

Otherwise, I didn’t notice the absence of illustrations – I was too busy reading avidly!

And now, Andrew has  produced an edition of ‘Skara’, with illustrations, and, they don’t just illustrate, they illuminate.  It’s not only to do with what people and places look like, the illustrations  illuminate  the essentials of their lives, the roots of their living. Some of Andrew’s drawings of people, or, should I say, figures, remind me of Darwin’s ‘Tree of Life’.


(B Bell)

 The following illustration takes us to the  very root of life – procreation, reproduction – which, for humans, mattered so much then, and is out of control, now.


(B Bell)

 The illustrated ‘Skara’ takes us deeper, and higher, into the life of the book, and…

 I’m still waiting, somewhat impatiently, for ‘Skara Two’?  Will Andrew take a hint?

Book Launch

Saturday 2nd December and Sunday 3rd December. 12.49 to 4.17 p.m. Harray Potter, Fursbreck Pottery, Harray. 01856 771 419



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