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Candia McWilliam Biography

(1955– ), A Case of Knives, A Little Stranger, Debatable Land

scottish observation wife edinburgh

Scottish novelist, born in Edinburgh, educated at Girton College, Cambridge. Her first novel, A Case of Knives (1988), a deftly plotted account of a triangular love affair involving an eminent heart surgeon, his male protégé, and the girl he selects as his beloved's future wife, was acclaimed for its sinister wit and stylistic inventiveness. A Little Stranger (1989), a black comedy about the uneasy relationship between an upper-middle-class woman and her child's nanny, also displays the writer's gift for sardonic observation. Debatable Land (1994) is set on board a yacht sailing from Papeete to Moorea, Tonga, and thence to New Zealand, and examines with characteristic subtlety the relationship between a group of characters of Scottish extraction, all of whom are haunted by aspects of the past. These include Logan Urquhart, a wealthy Glaswegian American who owns the boat, his second wife, Elspeth, who comes from the ‘Debatable Land’ of the Scottish borders immortalized by Stevenson; Alec, an Edinburgh artist; and Gabriel, a young girl who is taken on as a cook. McWilliam's distinctive style, which combines an almost pedantic precision with sharp observation of detail, gives her writing an intensely poetic quality.

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