on 23 February 2011
A few years ago I visited the Orkneys and fell in love with the dramatic beauty and the ever-changing view of these remote islands, just off the Scottish mainland. While I was there I wanted to read something of the place and was advised that I could do no better than read anything/everything of George Mackay Brown - how true.
The various collections of short stories, of which The Sun's Net' is just one magnificent example, must surely rank of some of the most eloquent and evocative in the English language.
In this collection of ten stories the themes range from a group of people having dined together seeing events through different eyes, a humourous tale of a marriage proposal that goes somewhat awry! a tale of superstition and the Black Arts, piracy, and ghosts. While some stories are attractive and reflect the harshness of life in the Orkneys, not all the characters are pleasant and in this collection 'Stone, Salt and Rose' and 'Pastoral' feature people who are not very nice at all. But the craft of Brown as a writer is that he makes the surrounding events so interesting and effective that the appeal is in the whole theme of the story.
Many of the stories across the gamut of Brown's work are set way back in time, from the Vikings to Jacobean times, from Victorian to relatively modern times in the twentieth century - the predicaments of human emotions rarely change but the fascination of how people interplay is given an eloquence that is rare in literature.
One of the first stories, from another collection, I read in the actual place of the narrative and through the simplicity of Brown's writing in this collection, 'The Sun's Net' I can still see, smell and hear the sounds of the Orkneys.