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Classic Fiction
Publication Date
31 May 2007
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
Age Range
20th century


by George Mackay Brown - Find out more about the author

'This is the book by my bedside. It is beautifully written with lyrical and poetic references to Orcadian myth and legend, making it a truly magical but unsentimental read' – Lorraine Kelly

'Greenvoe is a poetic, distinguished and totally delightful Orcadian story . . . full of humour and sensitivity and of the unsentimental poetry of raw experience' – The Sunday Times

‘The author’s prose is severely simple and beautiful; he never wastes words, but evokes a complete atmosphere in a phrase’ – Scottish Field

‘If an aspiring writer came to me and asked me how to tell a story, plot a book, round a character, make dialogue sing and whisper and bellow, I would say: “Read George Mackay Brown' – Peter Tinniswood

‘Fine, delicate prose’ – Publishers’ Weekly

Greenvoe, the tight-knit community on the Orcadian island of Hellya, has existed unchanged for generations, but Operation Black Star requires the island for unspecified purposes and threatens the islanders’ way of life. A whole host of characters -­ The Skarf, failed fishermen and Marxist historian; Ivan Westray, boatman and dallier; pious creeler Samuel Whaness; drunken fishermen Bert Kerston; earth-mother Alice Voar, and meths-drinker Timmy Folster -­ are vividly brought to life in this sparkling mixture of prose and poetry. In the end Operation Black Star fails, but not before it has ruined the island; but the book ends on a note of hope as the islanders return to celebrate the ritual rebirth of Hellya. 

George Mackay Brown is one of the major Scottish literary figures of the twentieth century. A prolific poet and novelist, he took much of his inspiration from the myths and landscape of Orkney, and also from his deep Catholic faith. His collection of short stories A Time to Keep (1971) won the Katherine Mansfield Mentor short story prize and his novel Beside the Ocean of Time was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994. He died in 1996.


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