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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Each page a gem, 26 April 2001
By 
A. Thirsk (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This was the first George MacKay Brown book I ever read and since then I have managed to read everything in print by this great, under-rated author. He is one of those incredibly rare talents that could paint a picture with a word, descride a life in a page or the history of a people in a chapter. A true storyteller that brought the story of his people(the orcadians) to the world. This book centres on a young boy growing up on an Orkney island and how he see's his world steeped in myth and legend and coloured with characters from the past and present. The author takes the reader into another world of dreams and passions until the end of the book that comes all too quickly. Read this book and experience the lost art of storytelling.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I do wish I had discovered him sooner..., 16 Feb 2006
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I have come to George Mackay Brown very late in life and find it rather fascinating that, once a fortnight, I flew over everything he writes of on my way to and from North Sea oil platforms situated north of the Shetlands. I am now too old and infirm to manage to travel to the Orkney Isles which he describes so well, so must content myself with seeking out his works in Amazon's lists. They are well worth the hunt. Anyone with an interest in such things as the sea, small communities, folk, and life in general should take a peek into his books. They are all great volumes to have at the bedside, especially for those interminable insomniac hours: never waste those hours again if you have his books to hand.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Charm of the Orkneys, 26 Mar 2008
By 
David (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beside the Ocean of Time (Paperback)
Like the previous reviewers, I have only just discovered G M Brown, and I certainly expect to read more of his work in the future.

His writing is more lyrical than that of Neil Gunn, but like that great storyteller of Caithness, he succeeded admirably in capturing the atmosphere of northern Scotland, awakening a sense of its long history and opening the minds of its people.

I cannot help comparing this book with Gunn's "Morning Tide", because both works centre on the life of a young boy in the early years of this century, but the two books are different, for, while Gunn creates a convincing character and tells his story, Brown's Thorfinn somehow does not come alive in the same way. He is more of a literary device, a pivotal awareness, through whose reveries we explore the island landscape and come to meet the adult inhabitants. There is, of course, another difference. While Gunn is always conscious of his country's history and culture, the present is what matters; Brown, in this book at least, leads us constantly out of the present and into the more distant past. It is only in the concluding pages that we move into the twentieth century and Thorfinn begins to emerge as a real person.

As I began reading the book and became aware of Brown's simple language and the magical atmosphere of time-travel, I actually wondered whether it was really for children, but his simplicity of style is a means by which he represents the mind of a young child and makes the novel accessible to a very wide public. This is a work of great charm which will appeal to readers of almost any age.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars spellbinding storytelling by a true bard, 11 Sep 2001
By 
A moving tale suffused with magic, poetry and a deep wisdom. From Orkney's greatest Bard, the pages reveal the life of an islander from birth to death, as straighforward and extraordinary as any life.
As with all GMB's work the language is remarkably simple and yet deeply symbolic. Shortlisted for the Booker prize, this work speaks as perfectly and poetically of our green islands as it does of the nature of man and his place in the universe.
This is the work of a truly great poet. Read it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly magical, 15 Aug 2008
By 
Morag - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beside the Ocean of Time (Paperback)
I read this book a couple of months ago and found it absolutely engrossing. I too thought it may have been written for younger people, but I think it will appeal to anyone who likes good strong tale telling and characters you come to care about, I love the narration of this book.
I am fortunate to live in Orkney, a recent move, and GMB's descriptive narrative is really spot on in capturing these islands and her own people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delight!, 10 Feb 2009
By 
Jean C. Macbride "Islander" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beside the Ocean of Time (Paperback)
A delight to read.
An amazing array of characters, all unique and yet bound together with their common environment. This author's ability to span the centuries and yet to create something that is still believable, rather than pure fantasy, is wonderful. The links between the years and the characters and the impact one generation has upon the next and the next is remarkable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply magificent, 21 Feb 2007
By 
Mr. Re Williams (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the first book by George Mackay Brown that I have read. It won't be the last. Superb storytelling, wonderful, lyrical language. I bought this out of curiosity on Amazon - an impulse purchase to get over my free delivery point when I was buying WS Graham's collected poems. If you too have stumbled across this book, then take a chance - you won't regret it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beside the Ocean of Time, 9 Oct 2010
A refreshingly different book. The author was born and lived in the Orkney Islands and in this novel he writes in beautiful poetic language about the island of Norday and certain episodes of its history as imagined by a dreamy teenage crofter's son.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive, 28 Oct 2014
By 
C. Cassidy "poodle extreme" (bucks, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beside the Ocean of Time (Paperback)
Its all been said, and better, by other reviews, but this is a gem of a book that I read in just three sittings. Its not that you "can't put it down" more that you forget you are actually reading a story as you become immersed in the characters, the landscape and the happenings. My wife asked me what the book was about and I found it near impossible to describe. There is no real plot, the central character is a dreamy schoolboy, and the time and place lines go back and forth and from fantasy to reality and all points in between. There is probably some intellectual description for this kind of writing, but for me it is just compulsive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully, wonderfully good, 20 April 2014
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This is only the second George Mackay Brown I've read but it won't be the last. I don't know how but I was entirely ignorant of his existence. I heard Lorraine Kelly, on A Good Read on Radio 4, talking about his Greenvoe and she made it sound like something I should read. Thanks a lot Lorraine!

Greenvoe is a marvellous book but this one is even better. I've just finished it and I've got that kind of exhaustion of the spirit you get when you've been in the presence of genius. I'll need a rest before I go back to him.There was one chapter that moved me so deeply at its conclusion that I couldn't get to sleep. It had set off something like an undersea landslip way down dark and deep lifting all sorts of blind turbidities. I don't know what that was about but I take it as a mark of the genius of the writer. I struggled to attend to the following two or three pages as my soul was still swimming and I had to go back and read them again.

Magic realism is a phrase that gets used with George Mackay Brown and I can see why but this book made me think of Thomas Mann's The Holy Sinner. The same mythic light and melody, a deft command of episodic and oceanic time, a jewel like quality like an early medieval illuminated book of hours. I loved the descriptions of the island and the people. I cared about the people - even when they weren't people - and Thorfinn Ragnarson sits with me now like Hans Castorp, Tom Cundall or Leopold Bloom; one of the most finely realised characters in literature.

I hope I'm not overdoing this - I have gone on a bit - but I sort of need to get it out of my system. Never mind what I think, just read the first sentence: 'Of all the lazy useless boys who ever went to Norday school, the laziest and most useless was Thorfinn Ragnarson.' I'll have to read it again myself now... when I'm feeling up to it.
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Beside the Ocean of Time
Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown (Paperback - 1 Mar 2011)
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