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This review is from: The Gathering Night (Paperback)
This novel is set in Mesolithic Scotland in the years following the geologically documented tsunami on the east coast of Scotland in 6150 BC following an underwater landslip off the coast of Norway. An entire tribe - for want of a better word - the Lynx People is wiped out, apart from four young men. They set of to find other people. The story depends on what happens to them. One marries into the Heron People and another marries into the Auk People who are at the centre of the action. The other two disappear until the end of the novel.
The Auk People live in a series of seasonal camps moving from one to the other according to whatever animals and plants are plentiful at that time of the year. So Salmon Camp is where they catch salmon during the salmon run, or River Mouth Camp for fishing and other sea foods.
Right at the beginning of the book one young man, Bakar who is an upcoming hunter, goes hunting by himself and never comes back. His mother, Nekane, is grief stricken and eventually becomes a Go-Between who can communicate with the spirit and animal worlds. She plays a crucial role in the second half of the book. Kemen, one of the displaced Lynx People, is adopted by Nekane's family group. At the next Annual Gathering of all the Auk People he meets Osane from another family group. She had been severely beaten and was unable to speak. He marries her. They have a son and, later, she begins to speak again. A hunter - Edur - from another Auk family had intended marrying her and his family claimed that Kemen had stolen her.
The novel comes to a cataclysmic conclusion at an Annual Gathering about five years after the story begins. The truth about Osane's beating and silence emerges as also does the truth about Bakar's disappearance at the beginning of the novel.
The characters are named using Basque-type names, since that language seems to be the earliest surviving European language. Details of Mesolithic life, drawn from modern archaeology, are quietly and convincingly brought into the story. This absorbing Mesolithic murder-mystery is a thoroughly good read which explores ethical questions unobtrusively.