60 Hardback by Polygon Books, £12.99
It’s always a lovely surprise to pick up a book you’re not really sure you want to read or not, only to find that you can’t put it down. 60 Degrees North by Shetland author, Malachy Tallack falls into that category. Not only did I find it hard to put down, but I’ve been recommending it to anyone willing to listen since.
Malachy, who now lives in Glasgow but was raised in Shetland, is a talented singer/songwriter and a gifted writer. Last year he won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and has written for numerous publications. He has that rare gift of being able to use words to vividly paint pictures – some of his descriptions of places he’s visited are simply wonderful.
The book is a mixture of things, part travelogue, and part geography and history book but at its heart it is a biography for this is a story, which in many ways, is about Malachy’s search to find himself and put to bed, the sometimes troubled relationship he had with Shetland and his father.
Shetland sits at 60 degrees north of the equator. Throughout his life, Malachy, who lived with his mum in Shetland and spent his holidays with his dad in Sussex until his father’s untimely death, thought about the other places in the world sharing the same parallel.
In a bid to learn more about his own relationship with Shetland he heads west, visiting every country on the 60th parallel.
He visits Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, St Petersburg, Finland, Aland, Sweden and Norway. His descriptions of these places are superb as he interacts with the landscapes and locals, while capturing the mood and atmosphere of each place while at the same time, reflecting how these relate to his own relationships with family and Shetland itself.
An intimate, brave and honest book, it has sparked a desire in me to learn more about some of these places for myself. A five star read from start to finish, Malachy Tallack is definitely a name to look out for in the future.