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My Desert Island book would likely be Sunset Song, a Scottish Novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. I’ve previously written about my love of this book here.

Cloud Howe is the second novel in the trilogy A Scots Quair by Gibbon and it continues the story of its protagonist, Chris Guthrie (now Christine Colquhoun), but differs from its predecessor in several ways.

The language of the book is less lyrical and poetic than Sunset Song but that somehow fits with a move from the country to the town and the events unfolding around Chris in a post-war world. I felt the book lacks the standout characters such as *Chae Strachan** and *Long Rob of the Mill** that so enliven Sunset Song. We have Else the maid and Ake Ogilvie but they are not fleshed-out to the same degree.

I first (and last) read this book years many years ago and remember it as unremittingly bleak but this was not the case. It was a very different book from what I remembered. Still bleak — just not as bleak!

I was struck with the thought that this is not about Chris; she was central to Sunset Song and changed over the course of that novel. The Chris we see in Cloud Howe is unchanging, a character who is more comfortable in her own skin than before. This book is actually about her husband Robert, Church of Scotland minister to Segget (Stonehaven?) who is challenged and changed by the events in this book.

There will be no spoilers in this review but I was drawn into a loss Chris suffers over the course of the book, so well is it described that I was reeling by the end and needed to stop and draw breath. Overall the language of the book lacks the poetry of Sunset Song but still has its moments:

Ake Ogilvie said it was only nature … what ailed the folk of Segget, he said, was that they’d seen Cis as they might have been—clean—and they’d liked her for what they had lost. It didn’t make sense, Ake seldom did.”

I have now ordered the final book in the trilogy to read again and predict that Chris’s son, Ewan, will be the main protagonist and the one who will be challenged and changed over the course of that novel.

Posted on January 19, 2024   #Books  

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