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Dark Mairi becomes the support and core of strength for a small Gaelic community of crofters, in a story set in early nineteenth-century Scotland, when Highland landowners displaced their poorer tenants to make way for wintering sheep
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NEIL M. GUNN was born in Dunbeath, Caithness in 1891, the seventh of nine children. His father James was a fisherman, and his mother Isabella was a domestic servant. Gunn left the Highlands to live with his sister and her family, and was educated privately, passing his Civil Service exams in 1907. He published short stories throughout the 1920's and his first novel The Grey Coast in 1926. He wrote several other novels, including The Green Isle of the Deep (1944), The Silver Darlings (1941) and his autobiography, The Atom of Delight, in 1956. He died in 1973.From Booklist:
The latest of Scottish novelist Gunn's works to finally receive American publication is a historical novel so rich and beautiful that the ruck of contemporary historical fiction pales in comparison. It is about a tiny Highlands community, the Riasgan, living by the old quasimedieval ways in a nearly cashless economy at the time of the Napoleonic wars, which coincided with and enabled Scotland's greatest national tragedy and disgrace, the Highland clearances--the often murderously brutal evictions of such communities, whose people were bound by vassal-like loyalty to clan chiefs, in order to turn the land, owned by the chiefs, to sheep-pasturage. At the center of the action is Dark Mairi, an old woman whose talents as an herbalist sustain the Riasgan's health and whose silent indomitability in the face of misfortune emblematizes the community's integrity. Among the actions that swirl around her are the recruitment of the young men into England's army, hence their dispersal throughout the empire; the self-chosen exile and then return with her child of a young woman left pregnant by one of the new soldiers; the growth to young manhood of Mairi's grandson, who eventually elects emigration to America; and the horrors of the clearances. Gunn's extraordinary style enlivens both characters and action by portraying physical, psychological, and natural developments simultaneously, thereby realizing the characters as utterly rooted in their community and their eviction as a calamity that is, however seemingly small and local, as monumental as the fall of Troy or the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. It is a style of poetic intensity and occasional rhetorical grandeur that must be read relatively slowly but that also invites sustained reading; it is as hard to break away from, even to look up the meanings of its Scots words, as a thriller. Butcher's Broom--the English name, by the way, of a plant symbolic of the clan to which the Riasgan belongs--is historical fiction on the order of War and Peace and Doctor Zhivago. Ray Olson
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Book Description Walker & Co, 1994. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110802712916
Book Description Walker & Co, 1994. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0802712916