According to the back cover of the 2008 Canongate edition of 'A Scots Quair', the trilogy has been voted the best Scottish book of all time. I am far from qualified to endorse this view or otherwise, but it seems to me that, if the author had lived long enough to produce a significantly greater volume of work, he would be held in the same esteem today as Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy.
The story of 'Sunset Song' traces the life of Chris Guthrie from childhood until she is widowed as a young mother as a result of the First World War. It is rich in characters and in the imaginative scenarios they enact. It is centred in the Mearns, which is defined approximately as the triangular region with vertices at Montrose, Edzell and Portlethen. Although the dialect of the area is used freely this seems natural. It does not detract from the flow, even for this Englishman, because the meaning of a strange word is usually clear from the context; there is in any case a glossary at the back of the book.
The story reflects the social climate of the period - the bitterness towards the House of Lords after it blocked the 1909 bill to introduce old age pensions - hustings at bye-elections (no TV then)- the class divide reflected by language('if folk are to get on in the world nowadays they must use the English') - the emergence of machinery in agriculture ('he'd like right well to see the damned machine that would muck you a pigsty') - a father's dictatorial role as head of the household - mentions of the workhouse and of breach of promise.
Grassic Gibbon deals sensitively and realistically with physical attraction and uses a freedom of expression denied to Hardy in the 19th century, but which is not even remotely close to that frequently evident in modern novels. The author uses humour occasionally, skilfully and appropriately.