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A remarkable achievement...............,
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This review is from: The Big Music (Hardcover)
This novel, for my money, represents a remarkable achievement. It sets out to explore the stories of a small group of emotionally linked characters, their home 'The Grey House' - in the past a summer school for bagpipe music - and the landscape in which the house is situated: the remote region of Sutherland in Scotland. Kirsty Gunn also wants to replicate in words the way music can suggest qualities of feeling and location that might live beyond words, or just out of sight in the landscape, but which unify characters and place. The narrative structure and the prose style replicate the structure and sound of the `classical compositional form of the Highland bagpipe', the piobaireachd or pibroch, to achieve this: `the music that sits behind the words' (p.310). I didn't find the novel the least bit academic or arid and the footnotes and appendices draw you deeper into the novel's musical and emotional structure and into the history of the house and its occupants, giving the characters ballast and the location vividness. The novel is beautifully written, reading at times like prose poetry, yet is not difficult to read. The characters have depth, are convincing, and the elegiac final 'movement' of quiet loves, hidden love and love revealed in music carries a considerable, cumulative, emotional punch. If it didn't sound off-putting I'd call it a modernist masterpiece. Whatever you call it this is a novel which is compelling, deeply affecting and fully realised in its multi-layered richness.