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The House with the Green Shutters [Paperback]

George Douglas Brown , Dorothy McMillan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Oct 2005
A vigorous antidote to the homely, self-satisfied utopian outlook as portrayed in the 'kailyard tradition' of writers such as S.R. Crockett, John Watson and James Barrie, it offers instead a bleak and uncompromising vision in which there is no united community, only cruel gossip, the failure of youth and a yawning absence of faith in anything. Nowhere is this more evident than in Brown's fictional Barbie, where the hated and envied Gourlay, the successful, domineering and powerful local businessman, looks down on the local people both physically and metaphorically from the house he has built on the brae overlooking the village. 'The House With the Green Shutters' is the story of his downfall, which is set in motion by the arrival of the affable yet corrupt and self-seeking Wilson, who gradually squeezes Gourlay out of one thing after another. Gourlay, an honest man despite his grimness and inflexibility, cannot compete, and his fate is sealed. Outwardly a symbol of order and control, the house with the green shutters is chaotic within; at its centre is a vacuum - 'the gaping place where the warmth should have been' - around which swirls a maelstrom of anger, hatred and resentment. As the story unfolds, Gourlay's son, intelligent and sensitive yet stifled by maternal love and paternal domination, slides emotionally and temperamentally out of control, and it is he who is responsible for the final act in the tragic sequence of events - killing his father in a fit of drunken rage. Although a powerful expose of late Victorian society, many of the criticisms inherent in 'The House With the Green Shutters' are as apt today as they were a hundred years ago.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (6 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904598587
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904598589
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'a powerful 19th century novel...compellingly readable' --The Scotsman Magazine

'a tight and brilliantky controlled novel that perhaps says more about the dark soul of Scotland than any other fiction I have read' --The Herald

About the Author

George Douglas Brown was born illegitimate in Ochiltree, Ayrshire (the model for the Barbie of The House With the Green Shutters), in 1869 and educated at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. After his mother's death he moved to London and embarked on a journalistic career, publishing his first novel, 'Love and a Sword', under the name of Kennedy King, in 1899. 'The House With the Green Shutters' came out a year later to great acclaim, receiving comparisons with R.L. Stevenson and John Galt. He died in 1902, leaving the idea for a subsequent novel, 'The Incompatibles', unrealised.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, furious realism 8 Jun 2009
'The House with the Green Shutters' is undoubtedly one of the most sorely overlooked novels in the Western canon, and is arguably the greatest Scottish novel of all time. A passionate, angry indictment of Scottish village life and its petty cruelty, Brown was inspired by his treatment growing up illegitimate in rural Ayrshire to write this furious reaction to the idyllic, quaint Kailyard school.
The novel is relentless in its savage, tragic portrayal of the downfall of the Gourlay family, however, this shouldn't frighten off potential readers, as 'The House with the Green Shutters' has much to say about Scottish society at the turn of the century. A profound piece of literature, this novel deserves a place as one of the greatest works of European realism. Truely excellent.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best ever Scottish novel? 20 Jun 2004
By A Customer
This is a superb novel, bitterly funny but at the same time intense and disturbing in its realism. One of the best things about the book is the way that the author lets you know almost from the beginning exactly what is going to happen; you sit back and wait for the inevitable unfolding with mounting horror, not unlike young John waiting for his father's wrath in the kitchen of the eponymous house when he returns home having been expelled from university.
The malicious gossip and the petty schemes that the townsfolk use to get one over each other are treated in a really cynical and sarcastic way; you can all but taste the author's bile. Although the book is set in the nineteenth century you can still recognise similar characters in any Scottish town today.
If you have read Sunset Song I would recommend this book to you; it is not as romantic as that book can sometimes be, and I think that Brown's depiction of the town of Barbie as a grasping, petty and vindictive rats nest is a truer picture of Scottish life than the harmonious cooperative beehive of Kinraddie. The House with the Green Shutters isn't a book about what we have lost, it's a book about how things are in Scotland and how they have always been. I can't recommend it enough.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greek Tragedy in a Small Scottish Town 11 Oct 2001
By A Customer
What is tragedy and how does it work? These are questions you will understand better after reading this book. Set sometime in the second half of the 19th century, the story concerns the fortunes of the Gourlay family in the small Scottish town of Barbie. John Gourlay, a big, domineering, but intellectualy challenged man dominates the local economy and has a monopoly of the carrying trade. He is harsh and powerful, of bull-like stature, and famous for his glower. On a brae overlooking Barbie he has built the House wIth the Green Shutters. This house is both the symbol of his dominance and an object of hatred and envy to the townsfolk.
Aristotle defined tragedy as a story depicting the downfall of a great man. At first it is hard to see this stupid, cruel, and grasping merchant as a great man, but The House With the Green Shutters will also improve your notions of what greatness is. John Gourlay is great because there is no fear or compromise in him. Although he may wish to be well thought of by the small-minded, two-faced gossips of the town, he is not prepared to go one inch out of his way for them, scorning even the banal pleasantries of small talk or phatic communication. He wants only their respect not their love, and respect him they do even though they also hate him.
With all true tragedy the tragic element comes directly from the greatness. It is his greatness that destroys John Gourlay. His stubborn pride and unflinching courage are qualities more suited to some heroic age of battles and revolutions. They do not fit into the petty, hypocritical world of 19th century Scotland. In this unheroic world his heroic qualities can only work towards his downfall. The thought constantly in one's mind as you read this novel is, 'If only he were a lesser man . . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting!!! 31 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Took quite a while to get into this read,but pleased that I stuck it out. A really great read and would certainly recommend to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 25 Nov 2012
By Ann
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Took a little while to get into this book but halfway through I was really beginning to enjoy it. Persevere.
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