A Hebridean Journey

516bDi4f7DL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Candia McWilliam at Literary Review:

The Hebrides lie between the narrow seas and the great ocean; they are places in literature and in the self-understanding of the nation, at once at its heart and ‘other’; they are located, too, in the oft-treacherous main of Romance. In English, we say, ‘How do you do?’ meaning ‘How are you?’ In Gaelic it would be, ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘Who do you come from?’ An answer would provide a sense of location, not merely physical but in memory too. Islanders tend to share not only memories but also what they have forgotten.

In this account of several journeys to the north and west, to the islands of Jura, Iona, Staffa, Rum, Eriskay, Lewis and St Kilda, Bunting demonstrates with vivid craft, like that of a manuscript illuminator or an embroiderer (this is very much a stitched, as well as a woven, text), the truth of Rebecca Solnit’s words in The Faraway Nearby: ‘We think place is about space but in fact, it is really about time.’ Bunting’s location on Eriskay of three events, centuries apart – the arrival of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745; a 19th-century scandal involving a young Englishwoman, the supernatural and several distinguished thinkers; and the grounding of the SS Politician with 28,000 cases of whisky in 1941, giving rise to the book and the filmWhisky Galore (gu leòir being the Gaelic for ‘abundance’) – makes the notion of arranging history around not time but place both seductive and refreshing.

more here.