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Classic Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories
Publication Date
01 January 2004
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited


by George Mackay Brown - Find out more about the author

‘Incantatory but down-to-earth, profound and often funny’ – Sunday Telegraph

‘At his best, Brown is a prose Hopkins, concerned with inscape, landscape turned inside-out, the rhythms informing the shape of things we see’ – Robert Nye, Guardian

‘Time and again what illuminates and pleases, apart from the speech of the characters and the poetic imagery, is the insight into people’ – Iain Crichton Smith, Scotsman

This collection of eleven stories, first published by The Hogarth Press in 1974, demonstrates the full range of George MacKay Brown’s literary talent. George Mackay Brown was steeped in the life and traditions of Orkney, a world set firmly between the sea and the sky, where time has an altogether different nature and significance from the rest of the world. ‘In Orkney,’ wrote Edwin Muir, ‘the lives of living men turn into legend.’

The rich history of the islands – the succession of Neolithic man, Pict, Norsemen, Scot – leaves its impression upon the life of modern Orkney and is reflected in this finely wrought collection. Mingling past and present, the human world and the spiritual, George Mackay Brown brings together both the modern islanders and the Orcadians of centuries past, for the same lineaments are discernable in both.

‘Hawkfall’, the central story, traces the vicissitudes, violence and hypocrisies which recur over many generations; in ‘The Drowned Rose’, the ghosts of dead lovers, still in love with the things of this world, mix with the living, while ‘Sealskin’ explored the relationship between legend, art and life. All stories are richly entertaining, poignant and moving, their universal themes realised in the context of their unique island setting.

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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