In the Den of Kinraddie one such beast had its lair and by day it lay about the woods and the stench of it was awful to smell all over the countryside, and at gloaming a shepherd would see it, with its great wings half-folded across the great belly of it and its head, like the head of a meikle cock, but with the ears of a lion, poked over a fir tree, watching. And it ate up sheep and men and women and was a fair terror, and the King had his heralds cry a reward to whatever knight would ride and end the mischieving of the beast. And maybe he said a bit prayer by that Stone and then he rode into the Mearns, and the story tells no more of his riding but that at last come he did to Kinraddie, a tormented place, and they told him where the gryphon slept, down there in the Den of Kinraddie. But in the daytime it hid in the woods and only at night, by a path through the hornbeams, might he come at it, squatting in bones, in its lair. And Cospatric waited for the night to come and rode to the edge of Kinraddie Den and commended his soul to God and came off his horse and took his boar-spear in his hand, and went down into the Den and killed the gryphon. So Cospatric got him the Pict folk to build a strong castle there in the lithe of the hills, with the Grampians bleak and dark behind it, and he had the Den drained and he married a Pict lady and got on her bairns and he lived there till he died.
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Start your review of A Scots Quair: Sunset Song, Cloud Howe, Grey Granite Write a review Shelves: fiction , scotland , favourites , first-world-war A long, powerful, moving, and ultimately pitiless account of that generation in Scotland who lived if they were lucky through the First World War and saw the rural lives of the crofters swallowed up by a new urban society.
The first book of the trilogy is the most astonishing all the pleasures of a Bildungsroman combined with a very rich and involving portrait of life in a Scottish farming village where we get to know and care about almost every inhabitant. The coming-of-age element is the A long, powerful, moving, and ultimately pitiless account of that generation in Scotland who lived if they were lucky through the First World War and saw the rural lives of the crofters swallowed up by a new urban society.
The first book of the trilogy is the most astonishing — all the pleasures of a Bildungsroman combined with a very rich and involving portrait of life in a Scottish farming village where we get to know and care about almost every inhabitant.
The coming-of-age element is the more remarkable because of how brilliantly Gibbon seems able to understand his female protagonist: Chris Guthrie is completely convincing. Even the many cool, introspective, observational scenes of her alone — which in less skilful hands could easily have seemed voyeuristic — have an air of genuine sympathy and truth to them.
The narrative voice is a synthetic kind of Scottish English, in which the cadences and vocabulary of Scots are constantly bubbling under the surface. At other times, especially in the dazzling opening sections of the book, there is a generous larding of terms that may have some readers south of the border, or overseas, grinning in bewilderment if, like me, you enjoy that sort of thing : Ellison had begun to think himself a gey man in Kinraddie, and maybe one of the gentry.
It also allows for some subtle effects in the later books as the narrative voice becomes more fragmented and less idiosyncratically Scottish. This is a false dichotomy many in Scotland may recognise even today.
The teas were all finished and Melvin had opened up one of the tents for the selling of drams, folk took a bit dander up to the counter, had a dram, and spoke of the Show and looked out — at the board, the gloaming was green on the hills, purple on the acre-wide blow of heather.
You might already detect the dominant tone creeping in under these passages: bittersweet, nostalgic, somewhat disillusioned. This mood darkens across the trilogy into something you could eventually fairly call bleak. The wedding scene was one such; another was the eventual story of what happened to Ewan in France. They are sadder, and the scope is less focused, but in their own way I thought they were equally fascinating and well done.
Similarly, the urban interplay and Socialist parables of the last book only work because they come after such a naturalistic evocation of traditional Scottish country life.
Sure, the writing shows a deep sympathy with the workers — as it damn well should — but there is no sentimentality here.
SUNSET SONG | CLOUD HOWE | GREY GRANITE
The trilogy can be seen as representing the development of Scottish social history in the early twentieth century. Sunset Song is based on a peasant community who make their living from the land. However, by the end of the novel, the land has been impoverished by the war, and people are less willing to do the hard manual labour required. The novel follows the character of Chris Guthrie, from girlhood to being a young widow with a child, contemplating her second marriage to the new minister, Robert Colquhoun, the son of the old man who had so impressed her with his sermon on The Golden Age.
A Scots Quair: Sunset Song, Cloud Howe, Grey Granite