The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark (Two Roads, £8.99)

Like many talented people, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark has several strings to her bow. Among them, in her case, is writing good books. The House by the Loch is her second novel. Like her first, it is set in her native Scotland and has a strong sense of place: the loch of the title has an almost magnetic pull on the people who live by it.

At first, Walter seems the perfect grandfather, adored by his grandchildren, who he teaches to fish and paint boats. They hang on his every word as he tells them stories of the loch and the family going back for generations.

As the story unfolds, though, we see how complex and guilt-laden Walter’s life has been. The novel flips back and forth in time as we hear of his meeting and falling in love with Jean and the complicated marriage that followed. Tragedy in the present day is mirrored by tragedy of a different sort in the past. The novel shows how families can heal together but also how secrets can fester and cause hurt for years.

Craftmanship is another theme. Wark spends time detailing the careful brushstrokes of Elinor’s watercolours and the tiny details of Walter’s fly tying. She also has a great appreciation in her writing for the epic hydro-engineering projects that surround the loch and bring power to Scotland. These things reflect the nurture and care which the characters sometimes need to apply to themselves.

In the final thread, granddaughter Carson comes of age and spreads her wings and we are left with a feeling of hope.

This is an assured family saga from a talented writer and I look forward to hearing her speak at the York Literature Festival on Thursday March 6 at St. Peter’s School at 7pm (call 01904 623568 or visit for tickets).

Philippa Morris