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The Living Past
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2007
About 30 years ago I heard the author speak at a conference and I was initially amazed at a strange voice and style. As he went on I was very impressed and so it is with this book. One has to wonder why he pretends to be writing two decades in the future, finishing up an old man with parkinsonism in a Stornoway nursing home. The reminiscences of life on Lewis from the forties to the sixties are told in a series of letters to the daughter of a deceased schoolfriend in Quebec. Strange but delightful, one learns of life a world away. Present day Lewis is a world away from London, but the Lewis of fifty years ago seems much much farther from us. School was a place of fearful teachers. Children were to be seen and not heard. What fascinated me was his warm yet critical appreciation of the Presbyterian culture. MacLeod is a man with a sense of humour, a real non-conformist. He prefers humble heretics to the legalistic orthodox He is well worth reading to understand life in the Hebrides and the culture of the Free Church. He will surprise you. It is pleasant to find he does love one very English thing, cricket. Minor criticisms are sometimes he assumes a knowledge of local history that not all readers will have. Gaelic is sometimes not translated. The book should have an index.
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on 1 June 2012
I agree wholeheartedly with the review by Mr Weeks. I'm not a Scot and have never visited the Outer Hebrides, but I loved the book and couldn't put it down. I'd have found this enjoyable reading experience enhanced by a simple map of the islands.
The book also banished the stereotype of dour scottish highland religion.
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