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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunset Song (1932) by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Terence Davies is making a 2014 movie based on Sunset Song (1932) by Lewish Grassic Gibbon,
starring Agyness Deyn as Chris Guthrie.

Book Review
Sunset Song (1932)
 by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

  Widely acknowledged as the first important Scottish novel of the 20th century, Sunset Song is part of a trilogy of novels written by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.  It's hard to argue that Gibbon in any way started the tradition of the Scottish novel, since Scottish writers like Sir Walter Scott and Tobias Smollett played a role in inventing the novel itself.  However, Gibbon is the first author to attempt to portray the "common folk" of highland Scotland in a realistic manner.  His trilogy of A Scots Quair, of which Sunset Song is the first volume, combines modernist technique (dialogue integrated into the text, stream of consciousness), a strong female hero (Chris Guthrie, who is the central figure of all three novels) and regional dialect (complete with a glossary.). to excellent effect.
  It is the interaction of these three features that make Sunset Song/A Scots Quair classic, and they outweigh the limited invention of the plot, which has the strong scent of earlier nineteenth century novels from other northern countries like Sweden and Norway.   A plot point dealing with a triple infanticide/suicide by Guthrie's mother can't help but recall the rural infanticide of The Growth of the Soil (1917) by Knut Hamsun.   The earlier chapters of the novel, describing the history, courtship and marriage of her parents reminded me of The People of Hemso (1877) by August Strindberg.  Which is to say that Sunset Song isn't necessarily breathlessly original aside from the technique, but it is first in the field, and at 195 pages makes for a quick read.


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