The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone
“The Gathering Night, set among the hunter-gatherers of Mesolithic Scotland, is a story of conflict, loss, love, adventure and devastating natural disaster. This pre-historical novel is set deep in our stone-age past, but resonates as a parable of our troubled planet 8000 years on.”
“Nature” would not be graced with a separate word in Mesolithic culture, with the trials and tribulations of these humans co-existing in the same holistic world with animals, rivers, mountains; inextricably linked, not separate. It is Elphinstone’s formidable depiction of nature which is the greatest strength of this atmospheric novel. Nature is depicted as both cruel and benign, from the harsh and biting winter in forbidding terrain where the family pull lily-roots from the freezing mud, to a time of plenitude, when birds flutter throughout the land.
“Water and islands are at the heart of her work and here a river runs throughout the narrative; Elphinstone is in her element in depicting the sea flooding into estuaries, white gulls wheeling overhead. Here the river is a metaphor for storytelling, and this indeed is a novel which flows at its own pace, with many voices trickling into its main current. The powers and pitfalls of storytelling are explored and also exemplified; the voices of the multiple narrators oscillate so rapidly that it is difficult to build up fully-developed, three-dimensional characters.”
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