In the High Peaks

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Gathering Night

Margaret Elphinstone, the Scottish writer, kept me spellbound with her novel The Gathering Night, which I read for the Scottish Literature Challenge. I paid a lot for the paperback and when I opened the book, I realized why. It's not published in the U.S. but in Canada.

In any event, the read was well worth it. Elphinstone cast a spell over me. She creates a vibrant world during the time of Mesolithic Scotland, back when the country's inhabitants lived close to the sea and were hunter-gatherers living in tribal clans. What I loved most about her rendering was the society of the Auk people and how they lived so closely, so in tune, to every living and non-living thing in the natural world.

Now, as I walk in the woods around me, I find myself spiritually in tune with Haizea, Amets, Kemen, and Nekane, a few of the main characters. The Animal Spirits. The Grandmother Mountain spirits. The whole concept of the Go-Between, who were very special people that traveled between the spirit world and the world of the living.

I also enjoyed the intricate details of the Auk People's hunting and food gathering. It seems such a good life in Elphinstone's telling that one wonders why people ever settled down to one place and took up agriculture. Supposedly, according to historians, it was a more stable and secure lifestyle, but I don't think it was, not really. Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one soon. I think the theory goes that agriculture was a more or less reliable food supply. Maybe they just wanted to have their own patch to defend. Maybe they came into conflict with other wandering people and it was an attempt to keep to themselves. I'm guessing. I don't know which lifestyle I would prefer.