10 Books Inspired by The Peatlands of Europe

Sparks from the peat-fire flame

It may have been the influence of the peat-fire on our family croft, but over the years I have read many books that conveyed something of the atmosphere of the moorland. They range from Siegfried Lenz’s The German Lesson, set among the salt-blown peat-bogs of Schleswig-Holstein, to the haunting Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, where Jacob Beers emerges from the depths of a bog in the novel’s opening. The landscape plays its part in much of Irish writing, from Heaney to Michael McLaverty, the absurd world of Flann O’ Brien, the Irish midland towns portrayed by John McGahern.

There’s its role, too, in Scottish writing – from Iain Crichton Smith in the Hebrides to Richard Hannay stumbling through the bogs of Dumfries and Galloway in The Thirty-Nine Steps, the work of Neil M. Gunn to the more recent His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett.

And that’s all without mentioning the Bronte family, or Shakespeare, with both King Lear and Macbeth experiencing visions on the heath.

No wonder it plays an important role in the distilling of many of Scotland’s most potent whiskies.

German Lesson cover

5. The German Lesson

Siegfried Lenz
His Bloody Project cover

6. His Bloody Project

Graeme Macrae Burnet
Short Stories cover

7. Collected Short Stories

Michael McLaverty
North cover

8. North

Seamus Heaney
Island cover

9. On the Island

Iain Crichton Smith
Dark cover

10. The Dark

John McGahern

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Donald Murray
Donald Murray

Donald Murray is an award-winning writer of short stories, poetry, fiction and non-fiction who has published a large number of books. His most recent, The Dark Stuff, is published by Bloomsbury. He also frequently delivers talks to children or adults in both Gaelic and English, find out more on his Live Literature profile.

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