guest review: A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, from Pops

Thank you, Pops, for sharing another recommended read. I remember hearing about this one several months ago!

Truly a classic of Scottish literature, A Scots Quair is a fictional trilogy written in 1932. I am totally enthralled; it is proletarian rustic history, romance of the earth, real-time anti-war essay, epic of Scotland’s industrial emergence, Victorian romance, visionary social observation, heartfelt conservationist ecology, salt-of-the-earth characters, staggering timeless relevance, Gaelic heart, linguistic challenge, lyrical poetic voice. Simply amazing. There are also striking cultural & spiritual similarities with the Pacific Northwest, and I’m not just talking cold & rain!

This was a “recommended” book discovered in planning for our 2010 trip to Scotland, which I loved and it certainly contributed to my appreciation and devotion here after such long delay. I wrote most of this summary after reading only book one, and it rings true as I finish the set two months since beginning the journey.

My paperback is printed in painfully small print; that combined with the blend of colloquial Gaelic & unfamiliar sentence structure to present a long learning curve before I fell into its flow and grew to cherish its voice. It took me a while to squeeze this commitment into a busy time, but after that tentative beginning I never wavered; the story was a reliable companion and ultimately I rued reaching the end.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon is the author. He writes of the period in which he lived: the dawning of the 20th century in Scotland up until publication in the 30s. The helpful 1986 Introduction by scholar David Kerr Cameron notes: “Sadly, Gibbon died aged only thirty-four, in 1935, almost as he completed the trilogy that would be his outstanding achievement, already aware of the fate of his beloved peasant folk but hardly realizing how important he himself would become.”

The story observes the course of change during this time in northeast Scotland by following Chris Guthrie from her birth to death, divided into three formative periods & locales in her life. The characters flowing in and out are countless, yet so many become familiar & cherished. Tragedies of the time are ever-present, as is a rich appreciation of nuance and humor in those lives. I am struck again by the wonder of a female character portrayed so compellingly by a male author.

This is one for all time, and I thirst to find some of it’s legacy in other forms…

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