5 Books to Read Before Visiting Edinburgh

5 books edinburgh

As Unesco’s city of literature, Edinburgh has both a rich literary history and a thriving contemporary climate for literature. From Sir Walter Scott to J. K. Rowling and Ian Rankin, many of the great figures English literature have connections with this Scottish city, whether visiting it, living there or being influenced by its writers.






The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886

‘Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm’.

While the novel may be set in London, it is common consensus among scots that this infamous story may just as well have been set in Edinburgh. The dual personality of the protagonist clearly echoes the Janus nature of the city itself, split between the Old Town with its closes, maze like streets and age old buildings, and the New Town, with its perfectly planned Georgian architecture. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of Scotland’s most beloved authors, and this novella is a must on any reading list.






The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark, 1961

Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life’.

Filmatised in 1969 starring Maggie Smith, this novel is considered a modern classic. Follow Jean Brodie and her girls, ‘the Brodie set’, parade through the Meadows and the Grass Market, as Miss Brodie applies her unconventional teaching methods. This novel uses frequent flash forward and flash back, making for an interesting read of how Miss Brodie was ‘in her prime’.






The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
James Hogg, 1824

‘Nothing in the world delights a truly religious people so much as consigning them to eternal damnation’.

Murder, intrigue, duels and family drama… explore Edinburgh at a time when brawls broke out on the Royal Mile and the Princes Street Gardens was still a Loch in the middle of the city. Calvinism and superstition also feature heavily, two influential and important aspects of Scottish history which remain part of the Scottish character today. Cultural influences of this novel still persist in today’s culture, far beyond the borders of Scotland.






Irvine Welsh, 1993

‘By definition, you have to live until you die. Better to make that life as complete and enjoyable an experience as possible, in case death is shite, which I suspect it will be’.

Now most famous as the cult classic film starring Ewan McGregor and Kevin McKidd, this is originally a novel set in Edinburgh and Leith. While Leith itself has undergone gentrification since the novel’s publication, Welsh shows with gritty realism the underside of any large city, even a picturesque one like Edinburgh. It is a challenging read, both style- and content wise, depicting characters riddled with addiction, frequent use of a broad scottish dialect and a narrative consisting mainly of short stories. The movie provides a great point of reference, so although this is supposed to be a list of novels, in this case the film is heartily recommended as well.






Hide and Seek
Ian Rankin, 1991

‘“Hide! Hide!”’

This is the second detective novel of one of Edinburgh’s resident writers, Ian Rankin. Following Inspector John Rebus as he reports to the scene of an overdose where the body is surrounded by symbols of satanic worship, his investigation leads to the discovery of a much larger systemic corruption. Like Welsh, Rankin uncovers the shady underside of the ‘posh’ city. This crime novel is full of literary allusions to John Keats, Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, and in his preface to the novel, Rankin himself cites Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as one of his main influences. This is a book of mystery with one of the most enduring and influential ‘hard-boiled’ detectives created in recent times. If you are going to read one piece of tartan noir, read this one.


Suicide Squad


For all its promising trailers and casting choices, the hype surrounding this movie left the viewer slightly disappointed after seeing it.

The first half consisted mainly of introductions and exposition, and while it was cleverly done and executed, it felt rushed. Every bad guy needed a background to justify their crimes and attitude, and any explanatory text which appeared on screen disappeared before it could be read. Only two of the villainous cast give a lasting impression of being something more than a two dimensional character: Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Deadshot is the real ‘hero’ of the story, and the plot tries valiantly to place him as its central character – the good guy among the bad guys. This is mainly achieved through his relationship with his daughter, sold to the audience as his ‘only weakness’. Not exactly a gripping back-story. While Harley Quinn is a fun wild card, lightening up every scene she is in, it could easily be said that the studio exploits Robbie’s physical appearance in order to sell more tickets. In a film with villains facing villains, Cara Delevigne fails to convince in her role as the Enchantress. Whether this is due to the studio failing to give her adequate screen time to establish her as the main villain, or because of lacking acting talent, is up for discussion. Other highly publicised members of the cast were barely in the movie at all, such as Jared Leto’s Joker who formed a sub-plot of a sub-plot.

Director David Ayer made a valiant attempt to give the film a comic book style feel, and the action sequences in particular succeeded in this. Other parts, such as a large folder labelled “top secret”, felt a little outdated and overstated. With a musical score which is reminiscent of the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy, a team forced to work together (much like in Avengers Assemble) and a final showdown similar to the original Ghostbusters film, it feels as if Suicide Squad takes the bits which worked best for other films and capitalises on them. With films like Deadpool demonstrating how good and innovative antihero films can be these days, Suicide Squad just does not make the cut.