blog img
BOOKMARK Book of the Year 2024


Once again, the shortlist for our popular Book of the Year Award has been chosen and the books sent out by their publishers to our judges. We’re always delighted those publishers, both large and small, are keen to be part of BOOKMARK’s award and we thank them for their involvement.

The prize is a bespoke silver bookmark, designed and made by Blairgowrie’s excellent silversmith, Sarah Cave. An invitation to BOOKMARK Book Festival is also part of the Award, and all our past winners have eagerly accepted this chance to be with us in Blairgowrie.

The Book of the Year list is all about book groups, because BOOKMARK Book Festival arose from such a group in Blairgowrie. The shortlist contains novels which offer in-depth and wide-ranging opportunities for discussion. The judges this year include two groups in Blairgowrie and Suzanne Graham, from the English Department at Blairgowrie High School

The books this year are:

Ritual of Fire by David Bishop (Macmillan) One of a series of novels set in Renaissance Florence, this one can be read as a stand-alone. Years after the death of Savanarola, fifteenth century Florence is gripped once more by zealots and prejudice. The sense of heat and claustrophobia is superbly well handled, lending this book a real aura of its time.

Clear by Carys Davies (Granta) A minister is dispatched to a remote island to ‘clear’ Ivar, the last inhabitant and make way for sheep. However, events quickly overtake both men (and the wife of one) and this short book becomes a bigger tale of danger, resilience and confronting the unknown.

Columba’s Bones by David Greig (Birlinn) If this were a film, most of us would have our fingers over our eyes at its opening. A Viking raid on Iona is graphically described in this novel by the director of Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre. But after the brutality comes the peace of Iona – or I – and the story of three survivors of that initial raid. Evocative, engaging, with a strong visual element, this short novel carries many themes – displacement, change, faith…

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury) Friendship is, perhaps surprisingly, an infrequent theme in contemporary novels. Shamsie explores the complexities of a 40-year-old friendship, begun in Pakistan with two very different girls. How does that friendship survive changes in country, fortune, attitude and circumstance?

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Macmillan) This novel, set in Georgian England, is perhaps one of the best plotted books I’ve read – its twists and turns reminiscent of the great Victorian writers. The main character, Red, is orphaned as a child but already a card-sharp and fortune-teller, becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar. Her search for the truth behind her own past takes you down all sorts of alley ways and wrong turnings – who do we believe and who can we trust?

All the Colours of the Dark by Chris Whitaker (Orion) (published in July) One of our favourite guests and a close runner-up in 2021 with his novel We Begin at the End, his new novel takes us back to the darker side of rural America. A frightening childhood event casts long shadows and affects the lives of two children in particular. We follow their escape from an unsettling past into an equally difficult present as they search for answers.

All titles are given to Blairgowrie Library and Blairgowrie High School. They are also available to listen to on Audible.

Past winners are:
Miss Benson’s Beetle, Rachel Joyce (2020)
Of Stone and Sky, Merryn Glover (2021)
Rose Nicolson, Andrew Greig (2022)
Paper Cup, Karen Campbell (2023)

Gail Wylie