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4.7 out of 5 stars22
4.7 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 September 2011
This is a remarkable book chronicling the five year stay of shepherd in an isolated region of Western Scotland.

In many ways this seems like a book outside of time - and for long passages of the book it would be difficult to actually know from what period of history it was drawn. Occasional references to "outboard motors", `jeeps" and both of the World Wars are just about the only way you could place this account in to back half of the 20th century.

This is a book that grows out of a highly detailed knowledge of the land upon which the shepherd walks and the animals in his care. With (for me at least) tongue twister place names and wonderful eye for detail the author builds a picture of his landscape season by season, year by year.

Although the landscape in which this book is set is clearly remarkable, this book does not shy away from detailing the issues faced by such an isolated existence. The descriptions of the winters made me glad that I read most of the book in a bed, in the warm. Equally the author does not shy away from description of the way deer, sheep and cattle are treated. The deer come off best in this equation, and some people may find a few short descriptions of the animal husbandry a little difficult to read. However, to have glossed over this aspect of a shepherds life would have been to omitted an important part of the story. For all the occasional references to treatments that may raise a few eyebrows these days, it is also clear that the author exposes himself to considerable risk to ensure the health of his animals.

The book ends as the valley - which is really as much of a character in the book as the people and dogs - is flooded as part of an Hydro Electricity scheme. As we move into an age where it will no longer be possible to burn fossil fuels with abandon, reading the epilogue to this book on the impact of a "green" power source on one of the last truly remote areas of Scotland is both interesting and current.

I recommend this book very, very highly.
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on 26 June 2009
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this and had to buy another copy as I've lost track of who I lent my original to! An excellent story about a harsh existence in the north west highlands in an area now under the raised water of Loch Monar. Quite a short read but nevertheless heartwarming and inspiring.
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on 14 August 2010
A story of a life of struggle in a remote highland glen. A battle against the elements where man and beast scratch out an existance between them. This isn't a story of hundreds of years ago but it was only 50 short years ago but the story reads like another world. Real weather and real people working in a real community where each day is taken on with a new vigour and energy. If you love dogs and wildlife this will take you away for a few days. A wonderful story.
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on 22 July 2012
Most people read about places before they visit them. I read this following a munro-bagging trip to remote and desolate rural Inverness-shire, Scotland, land of clans and lairds and deer. When you stand atop those peaks you think you are in a countryside which has not changed for centuries, but that is wrong. Between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries, the economy of these beautiful hills and glens changed from highland shooting estates bearing cattle herds to hill-sheep farms managed by scattered, isolated shepherd families, until just after the second war when the larger glens, includng Loch Monar, the scene of this book, were dammed and flooded to form part of Scottish post-war hydro-electric power development.
This book is a memoir of the time of just such a shepherd with his young family in such a remote and haunting place by Loch Monar before the glen was flooded and several homes submerged. Written with honesty, sensitivity and poetry, it atmospherically captures the ordinariness and the dramatic strangeness of this lonely world of sheep and deer and foxes and Christmas feasts in isolated cottages by frozen lochs.
This book was precious to me because I love these remote and lonely places; it was meaningful to me because I had just spent some glorious days stravaiging in these hills. But this book is a classic read which will bring delight to anyone who loves the countryside, or nature, or Scotland, or just sheer good writing.
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on 4 April 2008
This is a book which you will want to go back to and read again. It is of a time past but also present. Ian writes with humour and knowledge and, as such, makes you really wish you were there. It is of a life before the hydro and makes you realise that modern technology comes at a price and we should be careful with what we wish for and how it will effect our future.
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on 17 May 2013
Isolation shepherd is a beautifully written book about a family making a living in a very isolated croft. The Monar region of the Highlands is magnificent, but harsh, and it is hard to believe that anyone could have lived here. The great thing about such a narrative is that one can actually go there and see where this record of recent history was enacted. A very good book.
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on 4 July 2014
This is a great book, written by someone with a passion for his subject and a depth of knowledge acquired only by long experience. The style of writing is simple and isn't challenging and that is how it should be. There is no pretentiousness; it would be inappropriate in this place and the book is all about the place at a point in time. I know something of Glen Strathfarrar and more so the mountains surrounding it, so I found it easy to transport myself there as I turned the pages.
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on 24 November 2015
totally absorbed in this book at the moment but my grandfather was a shepherd in the same area around the same time, so maybe he'll crop up in there somewhere!
Great for those who know the trials and tribulations of hill shepherding even for those of us who don't have quite the same ground to cover. Chapters are nicely organised with each about various aspects of shepherding, working dogs, venison for the pot etc
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on 5 April 2011
A woderful, well written account of life in the remote highlands. Iain's writing is very descriptive, bringing to life the landscape, wildlife and people that lived and worked in this remote part of the western Highlands. This is a book that I will cherish and read again.
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on 6 December 2014
An absolutely wonderful read evoking a time now gone but still a recent memory. The country Thomson writes of is still there but now empty and much of it drowned under Scotland's hydro scheme, as he anticipated. The last hurrah of a life and a time we will not see again.
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