Reviews, Scottish Reads

Deep Wheel Orcadia

Astrid is returning home from art school on Mars, looking for inspiration. Darling is fleeing a life that never fit, searching for somewhere to hide. They meet on Deep Wheel Orcadia, a distant space station struggling for survival as the pace of change threatens to leave the community behind.

Deep Wheel Orcadia is a magical first: a science fiction verse novel written in the Orkney dialect. This unique adventure in minority language poetry comes with a parallel translation into playful and vivid English, so the reader will miss no nuance of the original. The rich and varied cast weaves a compelling, lyric and effortlessly readable story around place and belonging, work and economy, generation and gender politics, love and desire – all with the lightness of touch, fluency and musicality one might expect of one the most talented poets to have emerged from Scotland in recent years. Hailing from Orkney, Harry Josephine Giles is widely known as a fine poet and spellbindingly original performer of their own work; Deep Wheel Orcadia now strikes out into audacious new space.

I purchased this book when I was through in Glasgow, I bought it because it was signed, it was written by a Scottish author, and it was a genre I’ve been meaning to read more of. At the time I didn’t realise that it was a poetry novel (this is actually written on the spine of the book, I just didn’t notice/forgot). As someone who hadn’t read poetry for a long time, I was a little wary. However I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ended up giving it four stars. Although this four is really a four and a half, I reserve the right to go back and round it up to a five.

Turns out I love poetry now! I haven’t read any poetry since Higher English back in 2003. I have read some beautiful novels that include poetry amongst other formats of storytelling but this book was entirely poetry and that definitely took me out of my comfort zone. It turns out that I enjoy poetry so much more outside of a classroom setting although I think high school me would also have enjoyed this.

The language of this book was absolutely stunning and it really was a beautiful novel to read. This book included dual language passages so that I could read the Orcadian sections and then the English language parts. I thought that it was really interesting reading prose in Orkney dialect and I loved learning some new words.

The story really was fascinating. I absolutely fell in love with the concept of living in space and popping off to study in Mars. I really liked that returning home from school felt pretty universal even if ‘home’ was space as opposed to a hometown. I found Darling to be fascinating! A mysterious stranger in space just appealed to me. I think the only reason that I wasn’t sure about giving this book five stars was because I wanted more Darling! I wanted to know more about their family and mysterious past.

I felt like the life of the Space Station felt so realistic. As realistic as it can feel to a person who has no intention to ever go to space. I just mean that I bought it. The threats that they faced made sense and I felt that so much was captured in such a small book.

I was so gutted to have to miss Harry Josephine Giles making an appearance at the main library up here in Aberdeen. I was hoping to go and hear more of their beautiful words…and to awkwardly gush about how talented they are. Alas I had to work late and just couldn’t get there on time. Hopefully there will be other options as I’d love to find more of their work. I will be looking for more poetry. Is this my summer of poetry…who knows?

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