Saturday, 21 April 2012

And the Land Lay StillAnd the Land Lay Still by James W. Robertson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up after reading some rave reviews, and an effusive blurb. I've read some of James Robertson's stuff before (The Fanatic) and enjoyed it and this state-of-the-nation book doesn't set itself an easy goal, aiming to tell the post-war history of Scotland. Although it runs to 670 pages it (largely) moves along apace. However I was pretty disappointed with it I have to say. The plot was at times a contrivance to move on to the next major historical footnote or development in the Nationalism debate. Some of the threads running through it worked in this chronological narrative - the war vetran wandering as a tramp and the photographer documenting and touching on people's lives across the country, but the majority of characters I found a bit clich├ęd. They were basically all middle and upper class bores, apart from a couple of "decent" working class types, or right bad working class ones. So this cuts out the majority of the people of Scotland. Then industry is dealt with briefly (miners strike gets about 2 pages and is basically all Arthur Scargill's fault - so thats that dealt with) and a character is forced to go live in Glasgow for a few pages to include that city, although he could be anywhere, whilst endless debates between tiny groups of Nationalists merits pages and pages. So ultimately we hear a lot about the people from nice Perthshire towns and public schools, and people living in Edinburgh who have enough money to drift along without working and debating Scotland so that the reader can be told the history of Scottish Nationalism, rather than shown it.

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