Monday 19 May 2014

The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone

Set in the Stone Age in Scotland, this novel follows the fortunes of a number of families, their battles with each other and their struggles to find enough to eat. A tsunami pushes one group into the territory of the others which sets up lots of tensions.

The novel is structured in the form of a storytelling session round a campfire, but unfortunately the various characters all sound the same, no-one has a distinctive narrative voice.

What I loved about the novel is the close shamanistic relationship the people have with the animals, mediated by Go-Betweens, shamanistic figures who can communicate specially closely with the animals. As a result the animals choose 'give themselves' to the hunters and help humans in other ways too:

Dolphin saw Bakar's danger. But Dolphin didn't know the marshes - he'd never hunted there. Swan knew. Dolphin spoke to Swan and Swan took Bakar's spirit from where it lay and flew with it out of the marshes. Swanran across the water, splashing with every step - a man's spirit is heavy and not used to flying.

It's an adventure story set in the far distant past, but with plenty to say about our current relationship with nature.

The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone published by Canongate.


Willow said...

Thank you for this share ~ I think I shall take a peek at this book. I use to study Shamanism a bit eons ago ( course we all have the nature of connection if we are open to it ~ don't we ) . Love the animal connections .You have sparked my interest in the read.

Be Well,

Ms Sparrow said...

It sounds like an interesting read!

Unknown said...

Sounds like the set up of a really good book but I guess the lack of individual characters can get a little bland.