Despite my true passion for literature and people blaming me teasingly for having too much free time for reading, I haven’t heard about Lewis Grassic Gibbon until only recently.
The first novel “Sunset Song” of the trilogy “A Scots Quair” follows the life of Chris Guthrie, a “quean” of the Scottish village, a local farmer’s daughter, who has her dreams and fears and hopes for a better life.
The dilemma Chris has to face early in life resonated with my own experience strongly. She has to make a choice, whether to stay at home, at the farm, with her father, whose attitude to his family has never been what one could call loving or gentle, or to continue her education and give herself a chance for a completely different life in the city. Although she likes to study and wants to move to the city, her inner world is attuned to the myths and legends of the local hills. She comes to the ancient stones, when in need of advice.
I loved the detailed depiction of the village life and the vivid minor characters. The wider image Lewis Grassic Gibbon draws in his story of the life of country people around the time of WWI, is of the everyday hard work, of the cruelty that is borne in humans because of the routine hardships, of people accepting this cruelty and injustice as something ordinary.
The changes always take something away from what people are used to, but there are things that stay unchanged. Among the vastness of Scotland, among the hills, the old ruins, and the ancient stones, there still ring clearly the notes of the sunset song, rising and dying away, weeping and telling the story of the beautiful land and its people.
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