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Whisky Galore

(Home Guard Series #2)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,493 ratings  ·  165 reviews
It's 1943 and the war has brought rationing to the Hebridean islands of Great and Little Todday. When food is in short supply, it is bad enough, but when the whisky runs out, it looks like the end of the world.

Morale is at rock bottom. George Campbell needs a wee dram to give him the courage to stand up to his mother and marry Catriona. The priest, the doctor and, of cours
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 28th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1947)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  1,493 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Mar 20, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uisge Beatha - is that a sneeze and a yawn in "Garlic"?


I am in two minds about this book, for I am sure that had I read it in print or on kindle, I would have given it 3 stars only, but the awesome narration of David Rintoul, whom I just cannot praise highly enough!!, rendered it much more enjoyable. His style and Scottish accents delighted my Scotland-loving ears and soul and I could have gone on listening for an ever longer period.

The novel is based on a real story: during WW2 a cargo shi
Aug 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't write my own novel set on the Isle of Barra, and visit the island, without also picking up a copy and reading the most famous novel to feature the island, written by one of its most famous residents. A comic delight, some of it laugh out loud. A gentle tale of manners and culture clash, and a perfect glimpse into the way of life of the islands during the war. ...more
Lance Greenfield
This book is very amusing, and it is based upon a true story. It gives a great insight into why the simple lives of Highlanders and Islanders are to be so admired and envied.

The SS Cabinet Minister runs aground on the rocks of one of the Hebridean islands. The locals, naturally, take advantage of the availability of the ship's cargo: whisky. The authorities have other ideas about what should happen to this precious cargo.

The conflict which ensues, and some of the cunning methods that the locals
One of the most fun books I have read in a long time. Loved it!
I waffled between 3 & 4 stars so I guess 3.5*

The reason I waffled so much is that I found the plot hilarious but had some trouble with the Scot dialects (I have trouble reading dialects of all kinds). The interspersed Gaelic didn't give me as much trouble as my edition had a glossary of Gaelic terms with how to pronounce them & their meaning.

Here are some examples of the dialect (these are fairly clear as to their meaning but illustrate the way the dialects were written):

" 'I'm sorry, Captain M
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
I grew up with the Ealing Comedy black and white film of this book and have always known the story. The book turned out to be a disappointment. Full of redundant detail, the tale moves at snail's pace weighted down by quite pointless episodes and dialogue which would have been better rendered as reported speech. Compton Mackenzie's style tends to the trite in description with an irritatingly self-conscious and pompous diction - who has ever 'doffed' a dressing gown? Worse, he indulges himself to ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Sergeant-Major Alfred Ernest Odd returns to the Hebridean islands of Great and Little Todday in wartime and finds them in the middle of rationing with food supplies very low. Not only are food supplies low but whisky is almost non-existent and the islanders are not happy with the situation.

In addition the home guard are under suspicion as they are deemed to be not doing their jobs properly and the locals think that Odd has come to spy upon them and report back to headquarters.

There are a variety
James Oden
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have start off by saying that I'm a singer in a Celtic band and I don't just sing about whiskey, but I love the stuff. Reading this book for me was like finding myself surrounded by a room full of kindred spirits. There were so many things to love about this book, but really at its heart was the culture of Gaelic speaking Scotland. It is culture where nothing is ever too serious, yet the passion for life is the poetry of the air they breathe. Music, dancing, and just good Craic with friends is ...more
Lynne King
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book about an island. Cecily reminded me of this author in her review on DHL just now in one of his short stories on islands.
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully laid-back tale of the inhabitants of two Hebridean islands, and their intimate relationship with whisky! Very much "light entertainment" rather than laugh-out-loud or farcical, but that's OK as I've read very few books that can pull this off so charmingly and with such well observed characters/dialogue. Little overlong/slow/drawn-out though, lowering rating to 3.5 stars, but rounding back up cos 3 would be harsh.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three solid sturdy stars for the story plus one for the sheer amount of whisky overflowing from each page, even when there is a shortage of it.
Gentle tale about whisky-deprived Scottish islanders during the Second World War. Widespread depression reigns without the water of life, until a ship runs aground bearing thousands of cases of whisky, and the islanders manage to salvage enough bottles to restore their spirits. There are some very funny characters and humorous dialogue, although the prevalence of Gaelic makes it a bit difficult to follow. The love stories are dated, plus the whole novel seems to promote alcohol as an antidote to ...more
Slàinte mhath!

Despite their remote location, the Hebridean islands of Great Todday and Little Todday are not untouched by the ongoing Second World War. Some of the islands’ sons are far away serving in the forces, while various servicemen are stationed around the various islands. Rationing is in force, although the islanders always have their livestock and fishing to fall back on. But when there’s a prolonged shortage of whisky, things begin to get serious! When, after a few weeks of drought, a
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The picture on the cover and my vague memories of the film are of people desperately trying to hide whisky from the excise men, but that is merely one day's events in a very good book. Much of it explores the relationships between islanders when they are in the trying times of an alcohol drought and the effect of a sudden, unexpected, but not entirely legal solution.

I've been told many times that one way to make a novel is to get a set of characters, put them in a challenging situation and see
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Though this started out quite slowly, the more I read the more I enjoyed it. Whisky Galore belongs to that genre of writing about the country wherein officious city-types are constantly being wrong-footed by the wily locals, so there are plenty of laughs at the expense of the uptight authority figures. There are also some funny satirical jabs at military incompetence, puritan hypocrisy, and overbearing parents. I hear the 1949 movie version is great, so I'm looking forward to checking that out t ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good story but which unfortunately just continued to a predictable, inevitable finale without adding any unusual exciting twist to the overall plot. Lots of interesting characters introduced but it did become a little confusing when trying to remember their job descriptions/roles in society and which of the two isles of Todday they actually lived in. Good without being spectacular - 3.5 stars for me.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scotland, own
Cute story about the shenanigans that ensue when the whisky (and, for that matter, beer) supply ran out on the island due to wartime rationing. Certainly a crisis in Highland (or perhaps better island) Scotland. The fun begins when a ship, with 15,000 cases of whisky onboard, runs aground. Definitely a product of its time, but also an enjoyable read.
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have read more complex and profound books this year, but Whisky Galore is certainly the most amiable one. Compton Mackenzie’s book is a gentle tale of mildly rebellious Scots, but with no real enemies.

The action is set on the two fictional Scottish islands of Little and Greater Todday. It might be an exaggeration to say that they are a whisky-based culture, but certainly whisky is an important social oil in this place.

Unhappily the oil that moves the wheels on these islands has dried up. Put
Nov 19, 2022 rated it liked it
A poorly written book, though fun in a cosy sort of way. Wartime rationing creates a whisky drought on two neighbouring Hebridean islands during the early 1940s. The future matrimonial happiness of various parties is threatened, as is communal harmony, the morale of the local Home Guard and the authority and dignity of its commander. Fortuitously, the drought ends; some funny business ensues and all’s well that ends well. Wedding bells peal and the Catholic Church receives a new convert.

Also inc
Andrew MacKenzie
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This was a book I have been meaning to read all my life and during lockdown I finally found the time. I must declare an interest here as my father's side of the family come from Uist which is actually mentioned in Compton Mackenzie's novel (no relation btw).

This is a wonderful peek into wartime Hebridean life, with its more idiosyncratic elements still surviving to this day. The way Mackenzie constructs the narrative and dialogue and writes it as it sounds (e.g. "sarchant" for sergeant and "chic
Judith Lewis
Feb 19, 2012 rated it liked it
A feelgood, rather quaint book, very much of its period [late 1940s]. Based on the true shipwreck of the SS Politician off the coast of the Hebridean island of Eriskay, and the remarkable disappearance of its cargo of prime whisky. I suspect there is a good deal of truth in the story, whatever the author's disclaimer! Mackenzie knew the Outer Hebrides well, so I guess the book is likely to have a degree of truth in the social history it represents; it is certainly accurate in its depiction of th ...more
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Farce. A great book to use as a palate cleanser after a heavy read. I enjoyed every moment of this silly plot. World War II. A couple of islands in the Outer Hebrides. Many supplies do not arrive on the weekly boat delivery because, you know, there's a war on, and whiskey, for instance, is sent to the U.S. and Canada. Soon the island has severe rationing, and then no whiskey at all. Then, one of the ships headed to North America hangs up on a close-by reef in a fog. Suddenly, there are cases and ...more
Katy Kelly
May 23, 2013 rated it liked it
A bit disappointed really.

I loved the Ealing film as a child, and maybe I'm misremembering, but it was really funny.

The book seems to have the potential to be amusing, and sometimes manages this. On two little Scottish islands in World War Two (one Catholic, one protestant) whisky is running out. Providentially, a supply ship runs aground nearby containing thousands of cases of the said product. Before long, almost everyone is 'salvaging', and a lot happier. Only a few killjoys are trying to st
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scotland
I can't give this anything less than five stars. It's been a hoot. I've laughed my way through it and I'm going to miss it all the way through to when the dvd of the 1949 film arrives. It isn't worth 5 stars for the writing, the characters are over-drawn to the extent of approaching caricature, the setting is idealised and, like Dylan Thomas's The Outing, makes a bunch of men getting drunk sound almost fabulous; my experience is that it is rarely thus. But it has magic. It pulls together it's di ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a delight!

The characters, the islands themselves, the Gaelic, the wonderful Mistress Odd and St. Minnie. All of this and more make this book a delightful read, once you manage to follow who the characters are and their names.
The original Ealing comedy of Whisky Galore is a pleasure and the 2016 remake surprisingly good, with a brilliant Eddie Izzard as Waggett, played so, so well but for me the book is the best, while the films are simple sketches.
This book is worth the read and repays the
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe that I had not read this book before. I loved it. Amazingly it did not feel dated at all. I have read a lot of books from the period and they often feel dated (still good, mind you) but this one feels quite fresh (for the lack of a better word). It's a true classic I know, but I had not expected it to be so funny. I was laughing loads and reading passages to my poor husband. I shall be hunting down now a nice vintage edition for the book shelf. This is a keeper. ...more
Jun 06, 2021 rated it liked it
This was a funny and very relaxed read after a hiatus where I found it hard to pick up any book. It has comfortable characters (from the remote rural Hebrides) with simple, wholesome motivations (to get whiskey ot get married) and it has some hilarious moments. I imagine the movie to be as fun and wholesome. I also imagine that I completely ruined the Gaelic language when trying to read some of the phrases out loud, even with the phonetic spelling in the glossary!
Julie Furnell
Nov 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this - probably not as good as the film though. The only negative I have is that there are a lot of Gaelic words and although there are translations at the back of the book it does confuse the reader a bit (or it did me anyway). Also a character list would have been useful as there were different names for a character - i.e. a nickname and a Gaelic name.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Nice enough, but it's no Para Handy. ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a book about whisky, so how could it not be a fun book to read. ;) ...more
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Around the Year i...: Whisky Galore, by Compton Mackenzie 1 9 Apr 24, 2019 03:56AM  

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Compton Mackenzie was born into a theatrical family. His father, Edward Compton, was an actor and theatre company manager; his sister, Fay Compton, starred in many of James M. Barrie's plays, including Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. He was educated at St Paul's School and Magdalen College, Oxford where he obtained a degree in Modern History.

Mackenzie was married three times and aside

Other books in the series

Home Guard Series (2 books)
  • Keep the Home Guard Turning

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