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brown novel island book

a novel by George Mackay Brown, published in 1972. The island of Hellya and the village of Greenvoe which form the book's setting are imaginative adaptations of the Orkney landscapes and communities reflected throughout Brown's work. The main body of the novel presents a period of five days in the lives of the inhabitants of Greenvoe; the farming and fishing which form their principal occupations are evoked with detailed authenticity, as are the patterns of social interrelations on the island. From this episodic treatment a comprehensive portrait of a declining culture emerges and the presence of a stranger is explained in terms of his secret business on behalf of the government; the penultimate section of novel depicts the clearance and destruction of Greenvoe to make way for Black Star, a defence project which is eventually abandoned, leaving Hellya utterly desolate. In a brief concluding passage possible regeneration is symbolized when, ten years after the evacuation of the island, a band of villagers return and conduct a ceremony bringing ‘light and blessing to the kingdom of winter’. The book forms an extended parable warning of the need to tend the inheritance from nature and history vital to the welfare of a society. Brown's stylistic register is wide, ranging from occasional passages in a richly poetic mode to the effective colloquial tone employed elsewhere. The account of the preparations for Black Star is written with a remarkable narrative economy that creates an emphatic impression of the swiftness of the catastrophe.

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