Sam Fleming's Reviews > The Land of No Death

The Land of No Death by Stanley Robertson
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Feb 12, 2016

it was ok

It's hard to know what to make of this book. The blurb on the back would have the reader believe that it's a collection of traditional stories from the branch of the Roma people who lived in Scotland, and that Robertson is a master storyteller and accomplished author writing in English for the first time.

But there's a strong tradition of storytelling in Scotland, and a rich tradition of myth and legend. The stories don't read as the transcribed words of a master storyteller — I've listened to Robin Williamson tell stories too often, perhaps (see also The Craneskin Bag: Celtic Stories And Poems, for instance). Nor do the stories read as something written by an accomplished author, such as Tove Jannson. They read, rather, as something written by a parent for his children in a different language and translated by someone who is more interested in the structure of them than the skill of the telling. It reminds me quite strongly of the simplistic, occasionally clunky structure of stories in The Turnip Princess and other newly discovered fairy tales.

Elements of the stories are clearly recognisable to anyone with a passing familiarity with Campbell's Hero's Journey. There is a whiff of Odyssean myth, too, although the stories are clearly aimed at a much younger age group. I could imagine younger primary school age children enjoying these stories, or precocious nursery-age children. I'd have liked them when I was about four or five.

A curiosity; and an example, I think, of how oral tradition can become oddly stiff when confined by ink and paper.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2016 – Started Reading
February 12, 2016 – Shelved
February 14, 2016 – Finished Reading

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