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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 April 2010
The last time writer Andrew Greig visited elderly Scottish poet Norman MacCaig before his death, he asked where his favorite place in the world was. MacCaig, who divided his life between Edinburgh and Assynt in the far north-west replied that it was a remote hill loch. It had been many years since Norman had been fit enough to visit the spot, and he asked Andrew Greig to go for him and catch a wild brown trout. The resulting expedition Greig made with two friends in pursuit of the loch and its trout is the central excuse for this book, but the story is draped in musings and recollections of friends and friendships lost, love, work, art, breakdowns, family, politics and history. It goes beyond being simply a good book to being something that might be described as an achievement.

Greig catptures a certain part of the Scottish psyche - torn just like MacCaig's life between urban and urbane Edinburgh - home of the enlightenment; and the Highlands imbued with the sad romance of the Gael.

I was drawn to this book as an angler in love with Assynt myself, but you needn't fish to enjoy it. Greig himself is no great angler and this is not a book about fishing. Its a book about life, told through the course of a trip to find a secret loch.

Wonderful. The sort of book that when you pass the halfway point makes you begin grieving for the thought of it finishing.
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on 10 April 2010
This exceptional book has been my companion over the past few days on a very peaceful break on the shores of Loch Tay. It is a very personal account of Andrew's relationship with the poems and life of Norman MacCaig, with his friends and family and with himself.

The author's evocative description of Assynt and its significance to Norman as a source of masterful poetry made me want to go to the Green Corrie myself with my copy of The Poems of Norman MacCaig and a hip flask of his favourite Glenmorangie to raise a glass to one of Scotland's greatest poets and, in Andrew Greig, now one of my favourite prose writers.
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on 16 April 2010
I've read everything Andrew Greig has written. I started with the novel "When they lay bare" as I was on holiday in the Scottish Borders and wanted a book to fit. I loved it and sought out his other books. Each one different, each one great. I've Macnabbed, lived through the second world war, golfed around Scotland, armchair climbed in the Himalyayas with Mal Duff and now I have armchair fished in Assynt. I thought this would be the one I couldn't get into. Flyfishing???? A cast too far? But I loved this book too, even the fishing bits but it's so much more. The geology, the poetry, the stories, the personal reflections. He's a Polymath but not a geek. He wears it lightly but there is clear depth. Already recommending it enthusiastically to friends - a bit hard to do "well it's fly fishing & poetry with some geology and reflective stuff" perhaps not a great way to promote it but go get it, savour it; a book giving a link with the past to the old poets of the 30's 40's 50's 60's but bang up to date and modern. Roll on next book!
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on 25 October 2012
I stumbled upon the "Loch of the Green Corrie" while browsing for books on Assynt in preparing a motorcycle tour to the north-west of Scotland. How little did I know what awaited me once I had embarked on getting into Greig's narrative. Along the flight of stairs up to the poet's apartment; into the past of Assynt summers; out and about in the great openness of the Assynt hills the attention followed Greig's writing and took with it a considerable part of my own personal reflections: is there indeed - and if so who - a person that has similarly exercised tutorship for ourselves as the poet did for Greig? What a revelation to find that there does indeed exist someone like that. And what about the three friends fishing up north? How many close associates do we have to venture out with us thus unconditionally reflective? It felt reassuring to realize that there are people indeed who would be ready to do so. And yet the doubts, the understanding and acceptance of past as bridging to future without losing trail were sometimes painful to read - but so very much to the point. As is McCaig's poetry itself: one moment we see clearly and yet we don't. That probably is the most reassuring revelation of the book itself: without great fuss, plain simple but wonderfully encoded Greig shows through the fishing bet and the inner as well as the physical voyages that memory, present and future plans are nothing but the vital substance that cares for every need - life as a single frame, whatever the language or the code we use for the moment to describe it.
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on 15 June 2013
I discovered MacCaig's unique genius some time ago and through him found Andrew Grieg. At the Loch of the Green Corrie is a beatifully constructed book. The main theme is a journey to fulfil a promise to MacCaig, but Grieg adds to it with memories of his life - not self indulgent, but relevant to Scotland, MacCaig and life in general. His prose are very much like free verse, that so beloved by MacCaig, and at times have a rhythm which resonates very deep within. I have climbed mountains in the Northwest Highlands for years and have read many books on the Moine Thrust, Assynt and it's history, but for the first time everything is in this one book. Accurate views on the Clearances and Culloden and the relevance of Hutton to world geology give you an idea of how extensive this writing is; but at all times Norman MacCaig accompanies the author. This is a lovely book and it makes you think - which is never a bad thing. Ultimately it is a group of friends in tents and the hero is a deceased fish. Norman MacCaig would have enjoyed the effort and the simplicity. Thank you Andrew Grieg. Promises should be kept like this.
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on 27 June 2014
I received a recommendation for this book from a friend after mentioning that I had recently visited Assynt. Once I began reading I was quickly enthralled, and devoured the book in a very short time. However, I am not giving it to the charity shop or elsewhere just yet. I need to re-read it! There is so much richness in it. The book is well written, a personal testimony to a friendship with the late poet Norman MacCaig, and includes poetry, anecdotes, reflection and some profound writing of a very high quality indeed. This is what good writing is all about. It has also encouraged me to discover more about MacCaig, and I am already enjoying reading some of his poetry.
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on 20 July 2014
A moving and characteristically poignant account of a loving pilgrimage, which is as much about place and character as it is about the quest. This recount involves us in the life/ lives of the great Norman MacCaig, while also giving us insight into the Assynt he loved so much.
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on 30 October 2015
One of the most moving and beautiful books I've ever read.
Greig celebrates the life and memories of Norman McCaig in this wonderful account, which will appeal to anyone who is a fan of the outdoors, history, the wonderful journey that is human existence or even just the written word.
Other reviewers have done the book far greater justice than I ever could, but it's a great read and excellent value for money, as it's the kind of book you will pass around your friends and then read and discover all over again.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 January 2012
Andrew Grieg makes me consider, deeply, how much we need poets. The word poet (like all words) gets over-used and watered down. The poet, like the artist, is someone who should shock us into being awake, into being present. This is absolutely what Greig does, whether in his novels, his factual writings or his poetry.

The poet should be able to penetrate into the heart of darkness, into light which is so bright that it could blind us, and to show us the everyday which we pass by, unseeing, revealed in all its glory and despair. And how Greig does!

What is this factual book about? It's about friendship between tough men who can be tender about their relationships with their women and with each other. It is about the power and the fragility and the mystery of the world, particularly the wild world, which keeps itself as removed as it can from mankind's depredations. It is about the poet Norman MacCaig, influential in Greig's own poetic development (as he himself no doubt is to a younger generation) It is about fishing and climbing mountains, geology and the Highland clearances, about fathers, both actual and father figures, about commitment between lovers, about savouring good whisky, facing death, about good conversations, and about poetry itself, language, and the heart of the mind, the mind of the heart. And more.

I have no interest in fishing, and whilst a keen escaper to the wild places I suffer from vertigo and would never climb a mountain in the way mountaineers do.

But this, this book. It's like some divine and mystical text, which suddenly pushes you into reality by its carefully chosen images and thoughts. My copy was slowly and thoughtfully read, as if it were a long poem, rather than quickly raced through (I'm quite a fast reader) Writing this fine, this true, deserves no less attention from the reader, since the writer has been so thoughtful and attentive to his craft.

The structure of the book has a repeating image of the fisherman - the chapters come in pairs, Cast - where the line flies out, lands on the water, and an action is taken - and then Retrieve, where the action, the thought, the conversation is waited with, and then the line drawn in, and the caught fish revealed and examined, before the new line is thrown, and the fish of thought even thrown back into the deep glass of the loch again

Much annotated, much underlined (sorry if this offends, but my best and most remarkable, memorable books are the ones which have the most underlining) this is a book to return to, to re-savour, and to continue to allow to resonate.

Here are some odd snippets of my underlining, which struck home

"We arrive at who we are first by following, then by divergence"

" My predilection has always been, will always be, to sit until I sense the source, the place the wind comes from"

"The age of poetry is not entirely ended. Flecks of it still glitter in the pauses between stories, among the mud and gravel bed of the stream"

"turquoise lakes brim inside burning shores" (sunset over a loch)

And, recounting a small moment, when he and his fishing companions prepare to eat their evening meal, in the quiet of a deserted loch-side, as sunset falls:

"Nothing stops this, I think, the bubbling pan, the slow-oncoming dark, the light more lurid as it dies. Our choice is whether to cherish it, mourn its passing, or feel as little as possible"

Yes. That's what the poet does. Takes the ordinary and shakes us out of our unawareness, fiercely challenging us `Awake!' forcing us to see the timeless, the real, what matters, teaching us how to live better.

This joins the library of books which I regard as my teachers. And, like the best of teachers, opens up new vistas - Norman MacCaig The Poems of Norman MacCaig. (I was ignorant of this fine poet), and Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland (The Canons)
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on 28 October 2014
To begin with I was very dubious about the book, it seemed slow and I don't like fishing!

However once past the geological narrative I became absolutely drawn into the story and found it very beautifully written. So many gems that I had to learn to use my Kindle high-lighter so I could return to re-read.

I will now go back and start it again so I can fully enjoy how the story was prepared now that I know I love the final dish.
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