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Sunset Song

(A Scots Quair #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,633 ratings  ·  300 reviews
Divided between her love of the land and the harshness of farming life, young Chris Guthrie finally decides to stay in the rural community of her childhood. Yet World War I and the changes that follow make her a widow and mock the efforts of her youth.
Paperback, Canongate Classics, 272 pages
Published November 1st 1988 by Canongate Books (first published 1932)
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Marc Jameson I just sat the 2019 exam on Sunset Song. For anyone now looking at this, I didn't really use any websites and just used easy to remember and important…moreI just sat the 2019 exam on Sunset Song. For anyone now looking at this, I didn't really use any websites and just used easy to remember and important quotes from the key scenes to answer the ten mark question. For instance I used "spring had come and was singing and riding all over the fields" and "with them we may say there died a thing older than themselves, these were the last of the peasants, the last of the old Scots folk." whenever it asked about change or "you're my flesh and blood, I'll do with you what I will" and "if I ever hear you take your lord's name in vain again... I'll lib you" when talking about John Guthrie or Chris' growing maturity.(less)

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Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Vicky
Voted "Best Scottish Book of All Time" by "the public" in 2005

Look here:

The lines are gorgeous. When you listen to this you are there in the Scottish Highlands. When? At the beginning of the 20th century. Writing can be all about creating the atmosphere of a particular time and place.

I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Eileen McCallum. You have to pay attention. Understanding the Scottish dialect is difficult, but worth it. I don't understand all
MJ Nicholls
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Attention Novelists!

Test 1

Have you written a dreary middlebrow novel set in a part of India, the Orient, or a sundrenched third-world nation? Is your novel about postcolonial struggles and skirmishes faced by impoverished nations during a specific period in history? Does your novel dwell upon the emotional turmoil at the root of a persecuted community, and does it focus on a stoic native whose trials are shown at their most heartbreaking and humourless? Well done! Your novel will be popular with
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A much-loved novel in Scotland, that I originally read 30 or more years ago. I’ve just listened to it again on audiobook, with a superb narration by the actress Eileen McCallum, and have linked this review to the audio version rather than the paperback I previously read.

The author lived a short life between 1901 and 1935. For a man of his time he was unusual in that he often placed women as the central characters of his stories, many of which were told from a female perspective. So pronounced wa
Set in the rural community of Kinraddie Scotland in the years before and during the Great War. It's a moving and heartfelt account of the changes wrought in the close knit community. The story unfolds through the eyes of Chris Guthrie, her affinity to the land and to a way of life that will never be seen again. Chris is a wonderful character, she is strong and resilient like the land she loves.

This wonderful novel is evocative of time and place, and is rich in characterisation. All of the charac
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I have been wanting to read for a while because it is so revered in Scottish literary circles. It is something of a period piece, in that the lifestyles of ordinary Scots living in rural Kincardineshire were already largely lost by the time it was written in the 1930s, and plenty more has changed since.

Interestingly Grassic Gibbon felt his use of dialect words should have been intuitively comprehensible to readers outside Scotland - for me this was increasingly true as the book g
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Overbylass

REVISIT VIA BBC: Listen here

Description: Divided between her love of the land and the harshness of farming life, young Chris Guthrie finally decides to stay in the rural community of her childhood. Yet World War I and the changes that follow make her a widow and mock the efforts of her youth.

Episode 1/2 (1 hour): Chris is torn between the love of the land and her ambition to be a teacher.

Episode 2/2: After her father's death, Chris is determined to work the farm, alone if needs be.

watch a dram
Auntie Terror
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
If you've ever even been to Scotland and seen this lost world in the desolate ruins of farm steads, this book will make your heart ache ever so much. [Prtf] ...more
Jester Gilchrist
Jan 31, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was forced to read this book when I was in 5th year at school in Scotland. I despised it. I have no idea why students are given this to study. This is a dull dull book. Fields, farming, more fields, some stepping stones, Long Rob, Chris Guthrie, sighing, pondering, her rosy cheeked bloody face on the cover. Her grunting father wanking outside her door. Christ on a bike... I think at the very least you need grey pubic hair to enjoy this.
Jun 20, 2018 added it
Shelves: favorites
A story quickening, mad, disturbing, and beautiful, in prose striking and melodic - 'Sunset Song' dilates on tyranny and family, covetous and bewildering small communities, coming of age, the dying of old ways, the passing of generations, the wicked thoughts and terrible acts of life, and that great breaking between two people, tied by family, who simply cannot see each other as worthy of love. I’m sure this book will stay with me through my days. ...more
A Scottish lament...

This first volume of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's trilogy, A Scots Quair, focuses on the life of Chris Guthrie, daughter of a tenant farmer in the fictional estate of Kinraddie in the north-east of Scotland, before and during the First World War. Sunset Song, written in 1932, is generally considered the strongest book in the trilogy and one of the greatest Scottish novels of the twentieth century. Although it's written in a form of the dialect of the area, it's been pretty heavily
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who enjoy Scots words
This book was included in the 100 Best Scottish Books (Willy Maley and the Scottish Book Trust and others in 2005), and according to the Wikipedia article on it is widely regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century, if not the most important. Having just completed it I'm all in agreement. It is lyrical and moving, it is old fashioned and modern at the same time, it does blend melodrama and realism, and it does show the best of Scotland in Chris Guthrie.

The orthogra
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Wanda, Kim
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
What to say about this magnificent book? This is the first boot of the trilogy A Scots Quair.

According to George Malcom Thomson, to whom the book is dedicated, wrote that "this Chris of yours is surely the greatest woman character in Scottish fiction...She is intensely Scottish and yet universal".

I just found these little gems:

Sunset Song (BBC 1971) Clips 1, 2, 3 and 4.

This book was a kind gift by dear friend A aka B.
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, uni
Every time I read Sunset Song, I begin to ache. I long for the land, the earth and the glorious Scottish sunlight. I long to lie amongst standing stones and feel unchangeable and everlasting for just a moment. Unfortunately, Scotland is in reality too wet and cold to do any of this- hence the aching and the longing.

Chris Guthrie has been called the voice of Scotland, but I would simple call her the voice of youth. Grassic Gibbon's narration gets stuck in your head, and you can't get rid of it fo
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book (and the remaining 2 in the trilogy 'A Scot's Quair') is regarded as a classic of Scottish literature, so I was expecting something good and I really wasn't disappointed.

The story has the feel of an epic and is set in the early 1900's on a tough windswept farm near Aberdeen. The central character, Chris Guthrie, is a young girl who is destined for more, due to her intelligence, nurtured at school but those assets disregarded by most of the local community due to their dedication in wo
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Sunset Song is the story of Chris Guthrie, a strong, independent woman who is trying to find her own way through her earlier years. Her story is a gritty one as well as poignant and inspiring. In fact, it’s difficult to believe how well a male author such as Lewis Grassic Gibbon has been able to write such a brilliant figure.

Not only is Chris just written really well, the dominating male characters and their relationships with her are also well depicted. It’s not just one or two mere examples, b
Gary Bonn
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Somewhere I read someone saying 'All Scottish children should read this book'*. Really ... children? There's an awful lot of real life ... but maybe that's the point. I would suggest not reading it until you are at least 16 - then, wow, this is for you. This is the launch of a life.
It is also for anyone deep in a creative writing course (university or otherwise) as the writing style and use of narrative tools will fuel your rebellion.
There are so many rules about writing fiction now - there wer
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would have not wanted to be a woman back then. I could in parts relate to Chris in other parts I could not understand he actions. The book is written in a combination of Doric and English and at the start that felt quite disorienting but I got used to it. I loved the image of the moor and the standing stones as a recurring presence, Chris unwittingly chosen the old belief when she seeks comfort and solace than the church. A great book, but not an easy read and also not really enjoyable despite ...more
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh man, why was this book wasted on me in secondary school? I despised it then, but after a bit of growing up can see that it's a beautiful, essential book. The writing, characters and emotions are all powerfully real, hard to believe the author was only in his early thirties. And the sense of a bygone Scotland, recreated in your imagination as you read, is palpable. ...more
Dec 13, 2015 marked it as to-read
I've just ugly-cried my way through the new film of this, so I guess I really ought to read it. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephen McQuiggan
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Kinraddie the way of life is tough but fair. Chris Guthrie is torn between her love of the land and her love of books. When her tyrannical father dies she is free to marry, but then the War comes and rips the still beating heart from all she's ever known. A disturbing novel of hypocrisy, sexuality and redemption. Beautiful and heartrending in equal measure. a novel with soul; you can propagandize and still make Art. ...more
Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a hidden gem of the twentieth century. Voted the best book of Scottish Literature, it certainly lives up to its unknown fame. Lyrical and moving, this novel tells of young woman's life as it is torn apart by the coming of womanhood, modernity, and, ultimately, the Great War. ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british-lit
The best nostalgic bildungsroman I’ve ever read. What makes it special is (i) the Scots language peppered throughout, (ii) the beautiful rhythms of Gibbon’s prose, and (iii) the picture of a pretty horrible peasant life in a hamlet not too far from Aberdeen. I could have done without the Epilude (sic) that ends this volume of the trilogy.
Katy Carnell
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sunset Song follows the story of a young woman named Chris Guthrie as she navigates life and love in agricultural Northeast Scotland. Life isn't easy for Chris, the daughter of a tempermental traditional crofter (farmer on a small bit of agricultural land in the Scottish Highlands). As Chris grows up amidst chaos and violence, she must choose between education and her love of the land, ultimately deciding to stay on her croft as WWI draws nearer. As the war takes many of those that Chris loves, ...more
This book was AMAZING and is being added to my all-time favorites list.

My wife and I are heading back to Scotland this year and I wanted to read something Scottish so I went to the 'ol Google, searched for “best Scottish novels”, and chose Sunset Song off the list. Win! I downloaded the audiobook and off I went.

Sunset Song was published in 1932, and the primary storyline takes place in the years 1911 to 1919. It is set almost entirely in a very small, fictional Scottish town called Kinraddie,
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
"Sunset Song" is a story of changing times, of death and awakening. It is written in Scottish dialect which gives it many unusual, in fact, unheard of words, but this didn't hurt it for me. You could always get the gist of the meaning and it provided a poetic and atmospheric element. The writing style is actually quite lovely in my opinion. The book is dense – very little dialogue – with long paragraphs and often very long sentences. This didn't bother me, either, except that it took me longer t ...more
Kris McCracken
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A classic Scots novel that explores the harsh realities of life in Scotland in the early-twentieth century. I was aware before reading that this was voted as the Scots’ favourite novel a decade ago (make what you will having this at #1 and Trainspotting at #3 says about Scotland).

I liked it, but it is BLEAK. In Chris Guthrie, we have one of the most stoic female central characters you'll find. Life is hard (cruel, even), to the woman at the heart of this novel; but it is never unbearable.

The mi
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, classic, 2013
Tough book to review. So much I could say, but I don't want to blither. The language in this book is gorgeous. For someone like myself, so far removed from this story in both time and place, it's a revelation. (I could read and re-read the glossary alone, just for the fun of it.)Loved it.

Clamjamfried = choked, caked, plstered

Dish-clout = dishcloth, ineffectual man

Fusionless = lacklustre, tired, insipid, feeble

Gawpus = idiot

Gleg-vexed = bothered by insects

Jookery-packery = inappropriate behaviour
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn’t my typical genre choice but my Scottish friend insisted I listen to it on Audible for the full Scottish experience (it’s read by a Scot).

It’s a good book and the most famous Scottish classic, beautifully written and beautifully read. Listeners that are not use to a strong Scottish accent will likely find it challenging to understand. I managed to listen at 2x - 2.5x speed with no problem (thanks to having lots of Scottish friends).
Anna Mazzola
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Deeply moving and uniquely and beautifully written.
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Forgotten Classic...: 3/18 Sunset Song 17 13 Apr 02, 2018 02:27PM  
Read Scotland 2015 : Dramatization of Sunset Song 2 9 Jan 27, 2015 08:49PM  

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Lewis Grassic Gibbon was the pen name of the Scottish author James Leslie Mitchell.

Born in Auchterless and raised in Arbuthnott, then in Kincardineshire, Mitchell started working as a journalist for the Aberdeen Journal and the Scottish Farmer at age 16. In 1919 he joined the Royal Army Service Corps and served in Iran, India and Egypt before enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1920. In the RAF he

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13 likes · 4 comments
“So that was Chris and her reading and schooling, two Chrisses there were that fought for her heart and tormented her. You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day; and the next you'd waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you'd cry for that, the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies.” 21 likes
“there were lovely things in the world, lovely that didn't endure, and the lovelier for that... Nothing endures.” 8 likes
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