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This book was AMAZING and is being added to my all-time favorites list.
My wife and I are heading back to Scotland this year and I wanted to read something Scottish so I went to the 'ol Google, searched for “best Scottish novels”, and chose Sunset Song off the list. Win! .
Sunset Song was published in 1932, and the primary storyline takes place in the years 1911 to 1919. It is set almost entirely in a very small, fictional Scottish town called Kinraddie, only a few square miles in size. Kinraddie is located just off the North Sea, north of the Kingdom of Fife, south of Aberdeen and west of Stonehaven. I visited St. Andrews and a couple small fishing towns in the Kingdom of Fife in 2015 and I could picture what Kinraddie would be like in my mind. Since the entire story takes place in a small area, the natural landmarks, buildings, paths, roads, pastures, etc., all play important parts in the book and the ten homesteads and geography of Kinraddie are described in detail in the first chapter of the book to give you a mental picture of where you will be spending the next ten hours.
The book is read, actually performed, by Scottish actress Eileen McCallum. This is probably the best narration I’ve ever experienced in an audiobook. She makes every character come alive and brings life to the Scottish words and colorful language found throughout. She sings the songs the characters sing to each other and a couple songs from a wedding and this adds so much to the audio version of the book over just reading the lines in the paper version. Speaking of the paper version, after so many words befuddled me in the first chapter I bought a paper copy as it contained a map of Kinraddie and an eight-page glossary of the Scottish words used. According to the notes at the end of the book, the author reluctantly allowed the glossary to be included in the United States edition "should the context refuse to give up the meaning of a Scots word used" and he hoped it would be used seldom as to not break up the flow of the book. The author was also quoted as saying that his aim was, “to mould the rhythms and cadences of Scots spoken speech and to inject in to the English vocabulary such minimum number of words from Braid Scots as that remodeling requires.” The language gives this book an unique and enjoyable personality the likes of which I’ve rarely, if ever, experienced before.
Bothy billies = unmarried farm workers
Fleering = scaring, scoffing
Hubbley-jock = turkey
Jookery-packery = inappropriate behavior
Keek = peep
Tink = intinerant labourer
Wame = belly
Sunset Song starts by describing the history of the Kinraddie area, going all the way back to the 12th century and about thirty minutes later you are fully familiarized with the main inhabitants of the town as of 1911 when the narrative of the main storyline begins. The primary characters are fully fleshed out in this informative introduction so that you feel you know exactly what they look like, where they came from, and what their personalities were like. You even know how the gents styled their mousers.
The plot of the story begins to move forward in the second chapter when we are introduced to the Guthries, who move to Kiradde after the lease on their farm in Echt is not renewed. The Guthries become the major characters of the novel, with most of the rest of the novel told from eldest daughter Chris Guthrie’s perspective. The rest of the novel is absorbing and a joy to listen to. We laughed, we cried, and laughed some more. You feel like you know the residents of Kinraddie and feel their joys and pains as they go through life and are affected by the political and economic factors of the day, and eventually World War One.
Sunset Song is an absolute masterpiece. The cover of my paper book boasts that it was voted the "Best Scottish Book of All Time”. I can't speak for other Scottish books but I'm with the voters on this one. I can’t recommend the audiobook highly enough. Twenty stars.
Absolutely loved listening to Eileen McCullum convincing accent and dialect; brings the story alive! Marvellous!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Fantastic narration. I've read Sunset Song many times and will never tire of it. Eileen McCallum's voice is perfect and added so much to an already firm favourite of mine. I'm looking forward to listening again.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful