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And the Land Lay Still

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  759 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Michael Pendreich is curating an exhibition of photographs by his late, celebrated father Angus for the National Gallery of Photography in Edinburgh. The show will cover fifty years of Scottish life but, as he arranges the images and writes his catalogue essay, what story is Michael really trying to tell: his father's, his own or that of Scotland itself? And what of the ...more
Hardcover, 673 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Hamish Hamilton
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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Helen (Helena/Nell)
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a big book and it’s complicated. The quality of the writing is lovely—such pleasurable rolling phrases and paragraphs. Such ease and flow, such assured connectedness. All this is the mark of a mature novelist, writing in his prime. But what a task he has set himself here! The tale covers not only several plot lines and groups of characters, it tells the story of a whole country (Scotland) over five decades. In fact, Scotland herself may be the main character—although I don’t think she is ...more
This audiobook is over 33 hours, and yet I never considered giving it up. In the beginning, it wasn't easy keeping track of the cast of characters, but I got to know them. This is a portrait of Scotland of the last 5 to 6 decades. This was a politically tumultuous time. Devolution, Thatcherism, the crushing of the miners (the first miners' strikes were in Scotland), Scottish Nationalism, and much more. It is probably helpful if readers have some notion of what these issues are/were, and a ...more
Duncan Maccoll
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scottish
To be honest I gave up on this book about half way through. I have lived in the times described and found the depiction of real characters and real events somewhat disturbing. I went to school with a close relative of the man who actually found the Stone of Destiny in Arbroath Abbey, for example.

When I resumed, I hit the narrative and found a solid flow which I read and read and read. A sleepless night allowed me to make progress and find how some of the characters developed and were brought

Lari Don
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the only book I've ever read which felt like a faithful and sympathetic portrait of the Scotland I live in and grew up in. It covers a huge swathe of Scotland's history and geography, and it does so from a fairly clear political point of view. I loved it. I recommend it to everyone. It's long. It's not light and fluffy. It's probably not for die-hard fans of Thatcherism, unless they are prepared to read other points of view. But it is an incredibly successful attempt to bring the vital ...more
Lee Ann
Sep 09, 2011 rated it liked it
I would have given this book 5 stars but the middle section let it down really badly. First section was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable. Because of this I just had a feeling that struggling through the middle section would be worth it, just to get to the final section. True enough, the final section was excellent too. But it really was a long hard slog to get through the 'peter bond' section. Shame.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I fucking did it. I have forced my eyes to look at (most) of the words in this book and what do I have to show for it? Granular knowledge of the course of Scottish nationalism in the second half of the twentieth century and the occasional good line of writing. So it’s not one star but let me be clear: I did not enjoy this book.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is epic. And so relevant, reminding us that what this generation believe to be new political thinking actually is not. Not in the slightest.

This is a generational novel, primarily set in Scotland, spanning 60 years. It has a large cast of characters, whose individual stories all weave together. I personally love these types of narratives, but they can get confusing, remembering who is who, but Robertson doesn't let you get lost. I felt so safe with him. I knew that if I read on and trusted
Pauline Ross
This is a meandering tale that weaves together numerous strands of personal stories with the last fifty years of Scottish history, both political and social. The first character we meet, Mike, is a photographer and the son of a famous (and rather better) photographer, and his story I found interesting. He’s a fairly passive person, almost seeming to be an outsider in his own life sometimes, and surprisingly mature in his early years. When he discovers that he is gay, there is none of the angst ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It’s a sign of a good book that you continue to miss the characters after you’ve finished the last chapter. And that you're sad its all ended, even after the 650th page has been turned.

The Land Lay Still is a sweeping history of post war Scotland that educates, excites and agitates; the peaks and troughs of the independence movement as seen through the eyes of photographers, journalists, spies, the young, the old, the innocent and the criminal.

This is a book of personal stories that fit into a
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I took a punt on this and it was well worth it. Well constructed and intertwined. You have to wait until the last few pages to see how it all ties together, which was frustrating at points, but it was well worth it.
Alex Marshall
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is shorter than War and Peace, but it covers more than 60 years of Scottish history, starting around 1950. On the other hand, Scotland is smaller than Russia. On the other other hand, Mr Robertson is no Tolstoy, apart that is from the sheer ambition of his work. Notably, he lacks the genius to make his characters and the complexities of their lives leap off the page.

That said, And the Land Lay Still is quite an achievement. In a sense, the central character of the story is Scotland
Ken Tervit
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic - loved the politics and it brought back a lot of memories
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and complex story of people, politics, geography, and history spanning sixty years in post-WW2 Scotland - an enormous colorful jigsaw puzzle.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
The narrator, Mike Pendrick has made an unfortunate career choice, taken up his father Angus' profession as a photographer and has been slow to realise that he will never be as good as his father. And this is never a good thing. I first meet him, aged 53 shortly after his father's death as Mike sorts through his father's photographs for a retrospective exhibition for which he has been invited to curate and write the introduction to the catalog – a task which he is finding increasingly difficult. ...more
Ian Young
A huge, sweeping soap-opera of a novel set against the background of the Scottish Nationalist movement. Draws together a disparate set of characters from all social strata and political parties who eventually turn out to be linked by common goals or chance encounters. The book tells the story of each of the central characters sequentially, so that at the outset their connections are unclear. However, as previously encountered individuals begin to crop up in subsequent sections the ties become ...more
John Boyce
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. A monumental classic
This book of interlinking, overlapping storylines ranges back and forth in time from the fifties to the noughties to paint a portrait of Scotland. The range of experiences of the characters is carefully chosen to give different perspectives on political and cultural changes. A gay photographer, an ex-spy, a feminist journalist, a working class man in a small mining town and Tory MP: their lives connect directly and indirectly, sometimes in surprising ways and sometimes with an inevitability that ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My wife recommended this book after reading it in her book group. She enjoyed the political history woven into the narrative, most of which was new to her, as Scottish news wasn't generally reported in Wales where she was brought up. She also loved the weaving together of so many disparate characters' stories, and she felt the author evocatively described the Scottish landscape. So I approached the book with a certain anticipation, but overall was sadly disappointed.

I did enjoy being reminded of
I love this book - this is the third time I've read it, a necessary act in my mind in the run up to the referendum. I hate to use cliches like great, sweeping and epic, but it is, an engrossing perspective on 50 years of Scottish history seen through the eyes of a wide range of characters all of whom are connected to each other in one way or another through a kind of six degrees of separation.

This is a political book, and an historical one; it is a funny book, with laugh out loud humour, and a
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit I rarely tackle a book of this length (670 pages) but this was worth it - I may well read it again sometime. The interweaving of 50 years of modern history with the lives and connections of the numerous characters is fair ambitious, and there is bound to be a bit of contrivance to get it all to work out (just like Les Miserables - my last long read). This is truly enjoyable, emotive and informing. It just rolls along. And when you find you care about all the characters - it's ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, sweeping view of Scottish life and culture in last half of 20th century. Compelling narrative which also gives a good background on politics of modern Scotland - subtly. My only reservation is that by the end too many things are neatly tied up, though I realise that's a personal view (I happen to like loose ends, unanswered questions, particularly in a novel of this complexity). That's a minor point though - go read it, and the rest of his work.
Duncan McLaren
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ambitious in scope, beautifully written, and elegantly structured, Robertson's epic novel offers insights into aspects of modern Scottish history that many would rather ignore, in favour of Caledonian or Unionist myths (depending on their political persuasion). He gives us characters that somehow embody both the beauty and the squalour of the era, and through their actions and emotions we come to see the potential still nascent in Scotland today.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This ambitious novel contains some good writing and vivid evocation of life in Scotland over the previous fifty years. But it was spoilt for me by occurrences of the same vice as the author's Joseph Knight: undigested historical research regurgitated onto the page. In the first part, a conversation about independence between two working class Scots in a pub sounds like a debate in a Cambridge lecture hall. The middle section featuring alcoholic ex-spook Peter Bond nearly drove me to toss away ...more

This is an epic and very ambitious novel charting the latter half of the twentieth century in Scotland. Told through a historical political narrative, this novel features a horde of characters directly and indirectly interacting with one another through a web of storylines.

I suspect if I’d managed to read a copy when I’d originally added it to my wish list, I would have sung its praises to high heaven. As it was, there were times I genuinely struggled to continue with the book, particularly
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
James Robertson just keeps getting better. This is a multi-generational epic about Scotland, post-war through the turn of the century: devolution, Scottish nationalism, the collapse of heavy industry, Margaret Thatcher, miner's strikes, feminism, war protests, hope turning to ashes, ashes turning to hope, the world changing. I wanted to read about Scottish history but I got more than I had anticipated; I feel like I made some friends along the way.

The book follows a series of main characters
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is huge but somehow doesn't feel big enough. I let it lie too much towards the end, though that was definitely because of my life, not the book. The different parts follow different people, but they all end up with first or second degree connections with each other. I can't believe that the cliche "it's a story of a nation" actually literally applies. I felt a but rushed through the history towards the end, especially in part five as it began to switch between characters more quickly, ...more
Susan Steggall
As one of the main protagonists, Mike Pendreich, struggles to organise a retrospective exhibition of his father's photographic achievements spanning fifty years, so the story unfolds over a similar time frame. It is a tale that encompasses a broad cast of characters as they negotiate historical, political and social issues of Scotland in the second half of the twentieth century. Although always fascinating, that cast of characters seems at times a little too broad, forcing the reader to ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
As some-one growing up in Central Scotland during the Thatcher years, this was a very informative read from the point of view of the political/historical perspective of various Scottish lives intermingled with the political backdrop from 1950s onwards.
The novel covered modern Scottish history including early origins of nationalism, beginnings of how devolution came about (including the first failed referendum for Scottish Devolution - 1979), de-industrialisation and privatisation "boom" in the
Garry Duncan
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a long read. At a particularly busy period of my life, it has taken me five months to finish reading it, though the second half of the book I finished in 2 days.
I loved the language and was impressed by how believable the characters were as set against a background of political change in Scotland during the second half of the 20th Century. The novel is brilliantly written and structured. For the most part, each section of the book follows a time in the life of a different character,
Teagan Stewart
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I bought this book at a bookshop called Blackwell in Edinburgh, I was hoping it would be a quintessentially Scottish novel -- and that it certainly was. The print was smaller than in American novels and the dense jargon of Scottish political parties made it a bit of a slow read, but I got what I asked for and I learned a lot. The genius of the interwoven characters and plot lines was revealed at the last possible moment, and while I enjoyed that huge, final payoff, it would've been nice to ...more
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James Robertson (born 1958) is a Scottish writer who grew up in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire. He is the author of several short story and poetry collections, and has published four novels: The Fanatic, Joseph Knight, The Testament of Gideon Mack, and And the Land Lay Still. Joseph Knight was named both the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year and the Saltire Society Book of the Year in ...more
“There is something hugely civilised about allowing long pauses in a conversation. Very few people can stand that kind of silence.” 26 likes
“[M]ost people go through life a wee bit disappointed in themselves. I think we all keep a memory of a moment when we missed someone or something, when we could have gone down another path, a happier or better or just a different path. Just because they're in the past doesn't mean you can't treasure the possibilities ... maybe we put down a marker for another time. And now's the time. Now we can do whatever we want to do.” 15 likes
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