A while ago I said that there had been one other book event in August about which I’d write later. So, finally, here I am!
On a pleasant Saturday evening at the end of the month, I drove down to Peebles for the launch of a new edition of Pink Sugar by O Douglas. If you don’t know, I should tell you that O Douglas was the pseudonym of Anna Buchan, sister of John. The story goes that she didn’t want people to associate her books with him and so she didn’t use her own name. She did, however, draw very largely on her family and background in her books.
Mum collected the O Douglas books and eventually I did too. We both loved them for the same reason: the strong sense of family and/or community that they all contain. They are not just cosy family stories, though. Anna Buchan was no-one’s fool and knew exactly what the world was like even is she didn’t choose to dwell on the depressing or the depraved.
Many of her books are set in Peebles-shire with which the Buchans had strong family ties. Anna lived in the town for many years. Pink Sugar is one of those titles and so it was an ideal place for the launch. This new edition is published by Greyladies who are venturing beyond their original plan. This is not a book for children or by a children’s author. However, as Shirley Neilson said, it’s her business and she can expand the idea if she wants! I’m glad she has done if it means that more books by O Douglas will be available.
The launch was attended by members of the Buchan family and representatives from the John Buchan Centre in Broughton and the John Buchan Society – as well as committed O Douglas readers like me. It was a very enjoyable evening – there aren’t many opportunities to discuss the works of O Douglas with well-informed, enthusiastic fellow book lovers.
Of the book itself, I have to say that it’s not my favourite, although I do like it. It tells the story of one Kirsty Gilmour who settles nears Peebles with her elderly aunt and three unrelated children. It is not plot-driven but shows a clear insight into character. Despite the title, it is not sweet and cloying and just about manages to avoid sentimentality over the children.
If you don’t have it, you should certainly buy it. But also look out for second-hand copies of other titles. I’d suggest The House that is Our Own, The Setons and Taken By the Hand. Or maybe Greyladies will publish them too…