Top positive review
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A book out of time ...
on 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.