Louise Welsh's Naming the Bones
The author's newest novel meanders between boozers and burial grounds
This article is from 2010.
Louise Welsh’s latest novel was inspired during a trip to Germany, but set in her beloved Scotland, though it’s not the reverie of an expat looking through tartan-tinted glasses. Naming the Bones meanders between Edinburgh boozers and Highland burial grounds, via dogging episodes and drunken punch-ups. ‘Scottish readers would be irritated if they saw Scotland evoked as this heather-covered glen,’ Welsh reckons. ‘Sure, we all want escapism sometimes, but I think it’s much more interesting to see the texture of a place; to acknowledge that there are difficult aspects. That’s also part of the attraction.’
Welsh’s 2002 debut, The Cutting Room, was set in Glasgow. A literary thriller, it was hailed as a modern gothic classic, and set the tone for her later storytelling: dark, funny, but generally laced with danger. After The Bullet Trick, set in Berlin’s underground burlesque scene, her focus returned to Scotland. Welsh’s black magic tale is set in Glasgow University’s English Literature department. There, Murray Watson is researching dead poet, Archie Lunan, who died mysteriously at 25. Watson is desperate to bring Lunan’s work to the public’s attention, but finds himself drawn into the murky world of suicidology and the occult.
Unfolding like a sophisticated whodunit, Welsh peels back the rarefied veneers of academic life to expose something rotten beneath. ‘The university is like any other workplace; you get all sorts of different people. Included in that will inevitably be some dalliances. But I don’t think university lecturers are particularly depraved,’ she deadpans, with a twinkle behind her glasses.
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