Cloud Howe (A Scots Quair Book 2)
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The gladness and kindness had passed, lived and forgotten, it was Scotland of the mist and rain and the crying sea that made the songs — And Chae cried Let's have another dance, then, it's nearly a quarter to twelve, we must all be off soon as midnight chaps. There are parts of Sunset Song that had me almost open-mouthed with admiration, long passages which can't be quoted because their power comes from a cumulative brilliance, pages and pages which left me scribbling uncharacteristically superlative notes in my paperback: The wedding scene was one such; another was the eventual story of what happened to Ewan in France.
It's also often very funny — much funnier than I've made it sound in this review. It's a little unfair in some ways that the second and third books in the trilogy have been overshadowed by the first. They are sadder, and the scope is less focused, but in their own way I thought they were equally fascinating and well done. More to the point, Sunset Song depends for its power on the fact that we are reading about the last throes of a particular way of life, and it's essential to Gibbon's project that he sees that through and describes exactly what comes after.
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To me, the first book is strong precisely because it is followed by books which detail Chris's move to a town and then a city, so that we feel the nostalgia for her country upbringing just as she does. Similarly, the urban interplay and Socialist parables of the last book only work because they come after such a naturalistic evocation of traditional Scottish country life. Sure, the writing shows a deep sympathy with the workers — as it damn well should — but there is no sentimentality here. Socialism, like religion, is dismissed as just another ideology, and if this trilogy is anything, it's unideological.
The overriding message is rather that nothing at all is certain except change — that nothing, including love, but also including pain, can last forever, and that this is life's greatest sadness as well as its greatest comfort. But it's certainly true that while you can deeply admire books two and three, it's only the first one that you fall in love with. But you know he's too good to be kind at the expense of authenticity.
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The very end of Chris's story is like Scotland itself — bleak but not cruel, sad and beautiful. I'm pretty sure this trilogy is a masterpiece. View all 19 comments. Jan 16, Leonie rated it it was amazing. Something I really liked about this trilogy is the way each book builds on the last. They're all related and the last two books do things they couldn't do if it hadn't been for the last book, but they're all different. The big theme of the trilogy is, on a personal level, gaining experience and what it does to you, and, more generally, the inevitability of change. Sunset Song , the first novel, is a bildungsroman, really.
Chris Guthrie is the teenage daughter of a crofter in Scotland. She's Something I really liked about this trilogy is the way each book builds on the last. She's torn between identifying as the "English" Chris, who finds reality in the pages of books and wants to be a teacher and as the "Scottish" Chris whose self is always, inescapably, tied up with the land. A big theme of the trilogy is how ephemeral people are compared to the land, which almost negates time. In this first book characters occasionally catch glimpses of figures from another time. In later books there's a character that's into archaeology, which speaks of the same need to find the people who are gone in the landscape which is shared with those living.
Chris becomes a sexual being, gets married and has a baby. It's nothing much at first, but it changes everything forever. Chris's experiences here are synthesise the archetypal and the personal. I felt it was one of those books that has been done many times but, not least because it was written before it had been done so often, almost fools you into feeling like it's a first time. The writing style reminded me of Esther Waters by George Moore, though only in the sense that that novel seemed poised between the Victorians and modernism.
This has that same sense of new suffusing the old, and of something preparing to take flight and change into something else. People seem to like this first book the best. It has the most joy and lyricism and sense of timelessness, and the war, though it destroys what the book is about, gives it a good sense of narrative. It has an ending. The other two books are about what happens after the end.
They expand outwards from the small community of Kinraddie where Sunset Song is set. In Cloud Howe Chris marries again and moves to Segget, a larger community. Her husband is the minister and this is a difficult position for both him and Chris, as it places them a little outside their class and community.
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Robert is an idealist, where Chris is a realist, though her realism is not everyone's. There is a sense of desperate need for positive change in this book. The central paradox of the trilogy is that this is seen as a doomed mission but one it is vital to embark on. Or at least, Chris's husband and son find it so. Chris is the real grown-up of the trilogy, able to face reality without placebos like religion and politics. This could be a bit of a tiresome stereotype, shutting women out from the important things while, as consolation prize, suggesting that they're the more mature for this exclusion.
Chris isn't a boring grown-up to the more interesting men, though. We enter into both mindsets but Chris is the centre. This book is where I decided that I loved the trilogy, because Gibbon is committed.
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He wants a solution but he doesn't pretend there is one. The biggest flaw in the trilogy is the presentation of the political ignorance and callousness of the majority. In another book it would be a big problem for me but it's surrounded by enough that's real. In Grey Granite Gibbon moves Chris and her son Ewan to a city and really goes for the political stuff. Ewan is not unlikeable but chillingly distant from everyday emotional concerns. When he becomes a Communist it's a way of becoming human for him, in a way, as he finally identifies as one of everyone else, but we soon see that he's just as distant as ever really.
The flaws of social reform and political ideals are clear here. With Ewan's quest for justice and equality we have a sense of passion for something even he knows is hopeless. His politics are, apparently, the author's, but one doesn't feel these can have provided Gibbon with much consolation. Chris has lost her ability to invest in anyone romantically, to feel really close to anyone.
To experience others is important but ultimately one is alone. In a way her life is over in this book, but in another way it's about how life goes on even when your life is over. There is no real end. I think this is a book you have to be willing to commit to despite its flaws. Otherwise it would probably seem torrid. But I felt like the author committed to it and that meant a lot. This trilogy creates an impressive sense of progressive experience that comes from that commitment.
May 22, Suzie rated it it was amazing Shelves: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Already read Sunset Song, probably going to give it a quick reread then tackle the rest. Essentially, I think this is the best female character I have ever seen written in a book, and it was written by a man. What that should tell you I don't know. Too often I feel women are written in broad brush strokes, far more so than men - they're either decidedly within the Already read Sunset Song, probably going to give it a quick reread then tackle the rest.
Too often I feel women are written in broad brush strokes, far more so than men - they're either decidedly within the traditional feminine stereotype, or an over-the-top caricature of what is seen as being opposite from feminine. It's late, my words are not of the good kind.http://airtec.gr/images/espiar-facebook/2560-como-rastrear.php
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Chris Guthrie is realistic - she is warm and kind and eminently sensible and rational, and sometimes cool, and sometimes stupid, and sometimes weak, but she is ALWAYS real. I also love the language. I'm Scottish, and in some ways it feels completely alien to me. That's part of what I find beautiful about it. The texture of the book, its root in the land, as it were, is sometimes a little hard to swallow, but for the most part it's a good anchor to keep the story feeling cohesive, given the dramatic changes that take place between Sunset Song and Cloud Howe, and Cloud Howe and Grey Granite.
Sunset song is by far the best of the three novels. The secondary characters are so rich that you are really absorbed by the world of Blaewearie. Cloud Howe was equally easily my least favourite book - the secondary characters were pretty much universally unlikeable, and while I know that was the point, I missed having someone to "root" for as it were. Dalziel of the Meiklebogs was absolutely excellently slimey, but I missed having someone like Long Rob to temper things. Anyway, nothing endures, as well we know, but thank god this book has, at least for a while.
I beg every Scottish person I know to read it if they want an understanding of what has happened to their country over the last hundred years, and I beg every feminist I know to read it, because this is an important portrayal of a woman's life.
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