Top positive review
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A good tale, but don't take it too seriously!
on 21 November 2012
When reading this book, it is worth keeping in mind that it was first published in 1959 - things have moved on considerably in the world since then - and that includes the Western Isles.
The story of 'Miss Peckwitt' and her time in the Hebrides is covered in a number of books, but this one relates her arrival and early times on the island, and her introduction to the community, its foibles, drawbacks, and pleasures. It is extremely entertaining, and it is to be hoped that the islanders had as many jokes at her expense as she did at theirs. She says in the book that she is sure they did, but that they were discreet about it. Reading the story again after a number of years, I do find a touch of superiority in her attitude towards the locals, but I take consolation from her tale of the two visitors who encountered a local young man on the hill, and decided to test his intelligence by asking him if he could count well enough to say how many of them were standing there. Their faces were apparently a picture when he said there were 100: he was the one, and they were the two nothings. It seems that while he was a local, he was also a medical student at a well-known university, at home on holiday....
While light-hearted, the book is nevertheless a useful social history of the time, when Gaelic was the islanders' first language, light was provided by oil lamps, water was carried from the well, and entertainment came in the form of ceilidhs, visiting neighbours, reading, and going to church, and a trip away from the island involved boats and buses, and several hours' travel to get to a town. The introduction of a public telephone, with red kiosk and internal small mirror was a major event, and reading about it here takes one back to the days of pressing button A to talk, or B to get one's money back....
This is a great read, and I would recommend the whole series, with the caveat that anyone planning to visit the islands now should expect quite a few changes.