I picked up this book because it was the only one I found that was by George Mackay Brown. I wanted to read something by him because he’s called The Bard of Orkney and I wanted to read something that was set in the islands and so I got this book and the South Uist one. Anyway, I read this first. It is about the tight-knit community on the Orcadian island of Hellya, where residents are trying to come to terms with the destruction weilded by Operation Black Star, a military project that needs the island for some unknown purpose.
Now, while as a story it is well-written, with a nice poetic prose language. The narrative spans a week in the life of the islanders – everyone from school going children to boatmen. Most of the book is about the day to day lives of these people, what they do, what they think, how they talk etc. However, I was not very intensely moved by the book. I kept getting mixed up with all the characters, I thought there were too many of them.
I was able to keep reading because every now and then, I’d come to a sub-plot, about dark secrets or growing up, and I’d be engrossed for the next 30 pages or so. But then I’d be left confused for another while until the next good sub-plot came along. So while it had lovely language, it did not have enough cohesiveness in the plot for me. And so, it was probably a bad book by the author to have picked up as a first read.
Have any of you read anything else by him? Any recommendations?