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Artyness columnist and writer Barbara Henderson has been sharing her 'book o'clock' with the memoirs of Highland-based writer Cynthia Rogerson


By Barbara Henderson


Wow, sunshine! Who would have thought it? While our June weather finally catches up with what it’s supposed to be doing, I’ve been basking in sunshine for a while. Usually at bedtime.

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

That’s right, book o’clock falls somewhere between 11 and midnight for me, and I’ve been hanging around in California a lot in my head.

My imagination ticket came courtesy of Cynthia Rogerson whose memoir Wah! is out next Thursday.

One of the huge perks of writing a book column is that some publishers send me review copies of new releases. “I have never felt so important in my life,” I announced to the Man when the first one dropped onto the mat a couple of years ago. He just laughed at me. Philistine!

When I first met Cynthia Rogerson, she delivered a creative writing workshop to the Advanced Higher pupils I was teaching at the time. I had driven them to Moniack Mhor for a bit of inspiration. Over the years, our paths crossed: Dingwall’s Word On The Street, NessBookFest. When I was offered a review copy of Wah!, I accepted immediately. I know how tricky memoir writing can be (having battled with Scottish By Inclination myself) and I was curious to see how Cynthia had approached it. I knew from her previous work, she is a master of farce and I really admire anyone who can do witty well.

Cynthia Rogerson's latest book is out this week.
Cynthia Rogerson's latest book is out this week.

Wah! is a bright book of sunshine, first and foremost funny, about a dying parent. Yes, that does seem like a strange combination, but weirdly, it works! The book is reflective without self-pity and laced with an acerbic wit that carried me through from start to finish.

Cynthia’s mother is dying. Often.

Again and again, Cynthia is called to California to say goodbye – and again and again, her mother rallies, to the delight of her Mexican live-in-carer Atheca who was my favourite character by a country mile. Interspersed between these episodes are Cynthia’s memories of living in squats, hitch-hiking, train-hopping, boundary-pushing and all the other things she never told her mother.

Cynthia is unlike me – I was much less of a rebel and much less of a daredevil, but I have to admit that rebels and daredevils make for interesting reading. Publishers Sandstone Press have come up with a really novel way to promote the book, too.

They’re partnering with David Duguid at Picaresque Books in Dingwall on a ‘One Town, One Book’ campaign, encouraging everyone in the town to read Wah! over the summer.

There are plans for events to celebrate the launch alongside this too. Whether you’re in Dingwall or not, there is nothing to stop you from joining too.

I’ll be in Waterstones Aviemore for a book signing event on Saturday (June 11) between 3.30pm and 5pm, so do pop in if you’re around and say hello!


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