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The Cone-Gatherers (Canons) Paperback – 1 Mar 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Canons; Main - Canons Imprint edition (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857862359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857862358
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 48,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Let me alert everyone to the best-kept secret in modern British literature. If you love the novel; if you are interested in books that are humane and wise, not slick and cynical; then treat yourself this year to some Robin Jenkins." (Andrew Marr)

"Like all great masters, his skill is lightly worn, his sentences singing with what he does not say." (The Times)

"A masterpiece of concision and terrible pathos." (Isobel Murray)

"... Few novels in our heritage have the bell-like harmonies of this book ... it has a strange haunting poetic quality, conjuring from a few props a fable of eternal significance" (Iain Crichton Smith)

Book Description

THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL NEVER RESTED: IN THE WORLD, AND IN EVERY HUMAN BEING, IT WENT ON

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Originally published in 1955, "The Cone-Gatherers" is set in the middle of World War II on a country estate in Scotland. The estate's wood is to be cut down soon to provide wood for the war effort, and two men have been sent into the wood by the forestry service to collect cones for seed. The men are brothers, and the younger is a simple-minded but very empathetic hunchback with "a face like Lord Byron". Through no fault of their own, the brothers acquire the irrational hatred of the estate's gamekeeper. The wood, itself lying under the shadow of ruin, quickly becomes a dangerous and mysterious setting in which the problem of evil plays out to tragedy.
Jenkin's short novel is the stuff of high literature and evokes associations with Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and the bold themes of Joseph Conrad. Also, the novel exhibits a strong and welcome moral sense not often seen modern fiction today. It addresses the intense issues of character and virtue also seen, for instance, in the works of the mid-century Oxford group "the Inklings", especially the novels Charles Williams (such as "The Descent into Hell" and "All Hallows"), though without the supernatural element. As a story of genuine, concentrated pathos, "The Cone-Gatherers" is the sort of haunting novel that brings the reader to a stark confrontation with the truth of human nature.
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When it was first handed out as our Higher English text I groaned with everyone else. And probably if you read it through you'll think it was boring. But then you go back, read it again and go a little deeper. You see the love between the brothers, the twisted deterioration of Duror, the conflict between the Runcie-Campbell family, both with the outside world and amongst themselves.
Duror is the main character really. The book may be titled after the Cone Gathering brothers but it is Duror and his warped mind and view of reality that make the book. At first it begins as nothing more than an old habit of detesting the imperfect, enhanced by his wifes' morbid obesity. But then it starts to get under his skin. Calum, disfigured and a tad soft in the head, seems to have very little going for him. But he's happy. His life is without luxury, his job poor and generally his life is not brilliant. But he is happy. And this gets to Duror. It slowly eats away at him, gnawing constantly at his sanity, lowering him lower and lower until there is nothing left for him but Calum. He cannot stand the sight of him. But he needs him.
The deterioration that Jenkins shows is both amazing and revolting, even a little scary. Read it once, read it twice and reflect on all the meanings that Jenkins gives you.
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Format: Paperback
Duror, gamekeeper on the Runcie-Campbell estate, is a disruptive force in the lives of everyone with whom he comes in contact. His obsession with, and distste for, all that is flawed or imperfect forces him along a path which means certain destruction for himself and the cone-gatherers, Calum and Neil. The novel also gives a wonderful picture of life on the Runcie-Campbell estate during WW2: the master is at war and his lady is trying, with little experience, to run the estate to the best of her ability. However, her over-reliance on the manipulative Duror contributes to the tragedy. Social class and the division between the classes is explored - witness the hope for the future expressed by those who are inferior. Glossary included for Scottish words/phrases.
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Format: Paperback
World War II, and in a Highland Estate, two brothers arrive to collect seed from trees about to be felled for the war effort.

Neil and Calum, the conegatherers of the title, are like Scottish versions of George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Struggling against the odds they are buffeted by the reaction of everyone they encounter - the imperious lady of the manor, her sympathetic son, and vindictive gamekeeper.

The characters are amazingly well drawn. Duror the gamekeeper seems to me to be one of the greatest ever fictional characters - a man who despite his evil and vindictive behaviour still provokes your sympathy.

Jenkins is clearly a wise writer with an eye for humanity. I say a wise writer, not a clever one. Clever ones generally let their self-regard get in the way of telling the story. Jenkins retreats into the background and lets his prose shine. The quality of the writing struck me particularly in a little sequence when the toffs and their dog encounter the gamekeeper and his. The gamekeeper defers to his better's while his dog puts up with the posh folks' terrier bothering him, all the time making sure its master notes its forebearance. Its just a few sentences but it says so much.

A tightly written masterpiece. Not a paragraph is superfluous. And its old fashioned enough to have a proper climax.

This book has taken my breath away, and I am delighted to have found this exceptional author. I look forward to reading more of his books. It really is hard to believe he is not better known.
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Format: Paperback
This is vintage Jenkins, pity 5 is the limit. The recurring theme of good over bad and the fact that they are not poles apart, but inextricably linked. While more symbolic than many of his other works, the decisions we all face, morally and emotionally, are timeless.
Softly spoken with a serrated edge, but if you have eyes to see and a heart that still beats...
Makes you think.
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