martin's Reviews > Sunset Song

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
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's review
Oct 18, 2009

really liked it
Read in March, 2010

I had intended to read this since hearing of it many years ago from a good University friend who came from a small Aberdeenshire village.

Sunset Song is indeed beautiful to read. The dialect usage can be a little difficult at first but with a brain, some basic knowledge of farming and a few repetitions later in the text you can guess most of the ones that aren't in dictionaries.

Two things made the book special for me. First and foremost, the character of Chris is so lovingly and convincingly portrayed - my edition says people thought Gibbon was a woman writer using a pseudonym and I can understand why. The use of a female lead is necessary though because so many analogies are made linking the young woman to the earth and the harvest, to the earth mother in a way. Also, the years up to and including the first world war saw enormous challenges and changes for women on top of the changes in rural Scottish life, so fundamental to this book. The description of Chris' experience of childbirth - shocking at the time of publication - is one of the most realistic and beautiful I have seen in fiction.

The second reason I liked Sunset Song is the sense of humour that runs through it, even in the face of adversity and tragedy. The narrator (especially in the prelude and epilude) wrily pokes fun at the people and institutions and culture around him - the book reads as if written by a fellow villager, albeit a well-lettered one. There's the tinge of local gossip - often hinted at rather than stated, which is in fact the way the old wifies often enjoy it. The description of the various Ministers at the local Kirk is also a delight - there's something deeply Scottish about the villagers' conflicting and mischievous expectations and judgements of them.

Not a book to read in a hurry - sit back and enjoy it!


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