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The Serpent
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Classic Fiction
Canongate Classics
Publication Date
23 June 2008
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited

The Serpent

by Neil M. Gunn - Find out more about the author

Opening with a premonition of death, this is the story of a young man's conflict with the spiritual authority of his father, of a spirit of scepticism set against an authoritarian Calvinism. This conflict succeeds in bringing alive both the psychological and economic position of the Highlands in the early years of the 20th century: the book as a whole gives a powerful vision of what the Highlands might have been but for the Clearances.

Neil Miller Gunn (1891-1973) was born in Dunbeath, one of the nine children of ‘bookish’ Isabella Miller, and James Gunn, a fishing skipper of local renown. In 1911, he began 26 years as an excise officer, many of them at whisky distilleries in the Highlands and the Islands. In 1921, Gunn married Jessie Frew. The first of his 21 novels, The Grey Coast, appeared in 1926. In 1937, the acclaim won by his seventh, the prize-winning Highland River, encouraged him to resign his excise post and write full-time. Gunn’s wife died in 1963, and he lived alone in the Black Isle until his death. Since then, his standing as one of Scotland’s finest novelists had become even more firmly established, and the Neil Gunn International Fellowship has been founded in his honour.

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