Our latest Read of the Week comes recommended by Marketing and Communications Coordinator Martin who has chosen Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Having chosen the previous two novels I read with my Calderstones Shared Reading group from The Reader’s existing library of great literature – Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I wanted to tackle something different – something personal.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song is the story of a community in rural Scotland and their relationship with each other and the land. Set in the run up to the First World War, the story sees Chris Guthrie, a teenage girl struggle to survive with a family and a world that is constantly changing. She’s torn between her deep-rooted connection to nature and her desire for education – “Scottish Chris” and “English Chris”.
“So that was Chris and her reading and schooling, two Chrisses there were that fought in her heart and tormented her. You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day; and the next you’d waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you’d cry for that, the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies.”
It’s widely considered the greatest Scottish novel of all time and is part of the syllabus for Scottish Higher English studies. I have an odd relationship with the book, I studied it at school (and hated it) and worked on a touring stage adaptation (and loved it). It’s been a real part of my life for a very long time so I’ve been excited to see what my Shared Reading group are taking from it. I’ve been surprised at my personal connection in revisiting it at a different point of my life.
I need to say a huge thank you to Canongate, an independent publishers based in Edinburgh. They kindly donated copies of the book for my entire group to use, these have been added to The Reader’s library should you want to give it a go in the future.