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We raced back along the beach. The grey cliff screamed behind us. Basajaun ran faster than me. I saw the cliff made of water. It flew towards me, faster than an eagle. I smelt the water. It roared over us. It was swallowing my head. The sea smashed down on us. Its roar swallowed us; it gobbled us like little fishes. Its belly was noise and whirlwind. We kicked and fought.

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It was a kind of death anyway. Basajaun is not with Kemen. It seems he decided to take a woman and stay with the Heron People. The Auks are a little wary of him — how could the spirits allow such a terrible thing to happen unless something just as terrible precipitated it?

The Gathering Night: A Novel: Margaret Elphinstone: Books

Why the back is significant: Okay, that restores the universal balance. But the spirits can see the bigger picture. Those in-between years are not good ones for the Auk People. The Animals are not giving themselves the way they used to. There is without a doubt a flavour of Greek Tragedy here. Only when certain truths are revealed and matters put straight can life return to normal. What Margaret has produced here is an utterly believable world, my one reservation about the physical representation of sprits aside.

I really wouldn't like people to think: Of course, there are hypotheses about Mesolithic Scotland because there are so few signs, but that doesn't mean you go off into a complete fantasy. For my own tastes the book is a tad on the long side. Salmon Camp is a place of many waterfalls. We fall asleep to the sound of water rushing through the gorge below. Two Rivers meet just above our Camp. Many streams had fed those Rivers and helped them grow strong.

Whenever the streams cross the precipices that line the hillside they make more waterfalls, until the whole hill sings. The streams sing to the Salmon with many voices. When the Salmon hear the call of the waters they come in from the sea and leap up the falls. They jump from pool to pool until they lie in the lap of the hills. The songs of the water live in our hearts and become our songs too. At least it feels like that.

And yet strangely one Amazon reviewer said this:. I do have to admit to being a little disappointed that it is more about people and less about their surroundings than I had hoped for. Margaret Elphinstone has a real but in this book under-used talent for descriptive writing , which is a pity when she has been clever enough to pick such a potentially fascinating setting for her story.

I read this book over eight days, one section a day. And the inclination to jump paragraphs was strong although I found the story interesting enough and its resolution believable. I particularly liked her decision to have the main parties involved tell their own bits of the tale. Of course there must have been infinitely more Mesolithic habitations than the ones we know about. Sea levels have changed considerably since then anyway.

But if you want a clue — look at the map of Mull and Ardnamurchan. Margaret Elphinstone is right up there. I mentioned the digs she went on. She also made her own flint tools and constructed her own cowhide coracle. All this research is thoroughly integrated into the narrative. She is Professor of Writing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, where her main areas of academic research are Scottish women writers, and the literature of small islands. She lived for eight years in the Shetland Islands and is the mother of two children.

Hopes of resolution come when Alaia's mother returns home as a Go-Between, one able to commune with the spirits. But as all the Auk people come together for their annual Gathering Night, who there will listen to the voice of a woman? This utterly enchanting pre-historical novel is set deep in our stone-age past, but resonates as a parable of our troubled planet years on. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

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What would you risk to help someone else? The one you love? Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.

Please try again later. I bought this book because I have enjoyed several other historical fiction books by this author. Having studied this period, it seems to me unlikely that roles like hunting would have been purely allocated to men, and gathering fruits et cetera and all domestic activities would have been done solely by women. In doing this, you are limiting the skillsets of each individual and halving everyone's productivity - not something any Clan would want to do in such a brutal world of survival.

Just generally I was a bit grossed out by all the sexist dialogue and attitudes of the characters. One of the young women in the story goes mute it later turns out, from the trauma of being raped by her father. So the other men tell this poor woman's husband that a mute wife is the best thing ever because he still gets sex from her but he doesn't have to listen to her talk. I wouldn't mind so much if held a message or was exploring the injustices of such a system, but it didn't do this.

Feb 07, Fiona Hurley rated it it was amazing Shelves: Elphinstone has used these ingredients to recreate a prehistoric world. Her research is admirable, but even more so is her talent for conjuring up the distant past. This is a story told around a campfire by people whose relationship to nature is elemental. They have rituals for communicating with the spirits of animals, o [copied from my original review on amazon.

They have rituals for communicating with the spirits of animals, on whom they depend for survival. They joke with each other. They are capable of tenderness one moment and brutality the next. They seem very different from us and yet, in the end, not so different after all. Mar 21, Jack Deighton rated it really liked it. This is set in Mesolithic Scotland, a time about which very little is known. This gives Elphinstone scope to portray a fully imagined subsistence society with its own mythology and belief systems. Its characters live off the land and sea and feel close to the animals they hunt and the spirits which govern all their interactions.

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In any case very few such things do cohere. The tale is told literally by various of the characters taking turns to narrate the central events round a campfire, perhaps at one of the various gatherings the Auk people, around whom the book revolves, attend throughout the year. As events unfold the tightness of the plot becomes apparent. This is cleverly done, things that at first appear unrelated turn out to be pivotal, and the characters within are all believable as actors in the scenario and as people full stop. It is a description of a way of life that may have been, of a simpler kind of existence.

It also aligns itself firmly with the Scottish novel in general in its descriptions of land- and here especially seascape. The Gathering Night is a novel set in pre-history. We listen to a bunch of people telling a story about a decisive time in their community, over the course of several evenings. They tell the story of how one young man disappeared without a trace, how his mother mourned and changed, and how a stranger arrived, displaced by the total destruction of his own tribe through a tsunami.

I read the entire novel vaguely assuming it was set in the Pacific Northwest. Only after reading the afterword did I r The Gathering Night is a novel set in pre-history. Only after reading the afterword did I realise it was set in Scotland The novel sets up mysteries, but, like real lives, people cannot dedicate everything to resolving those mysteries.

Review: The Gathering Night, by Margaret Elphinstone

Lives go on - answers are not always found straight away, if ever. It is not a very plot-driven novel. The prose is elegant and the speech rhythm - and prehistoric humour - is well-thought-out and compellingly believable. This is a story of a community, and no one gets to dominate. No Ayla in this book I enjoyed reading the book and found it quite absorbing even though it is not very plot-driven. It is a mellow, but satisfying read. It detracts from the ability of such novels to truly convince that they treat spirits and the supernatural as real.

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Still, it's quite a bit more literary and subtle than Auel's series - and a good novel, on the whole. The story is told from the viewpoint of several narrators sitting round the camp fire during the Mesolithic era in Scotland. And these are indeed different people but they speak with a collective voice which illustrates the communal nature of their existence. There is a little repetition of scenes from these different viewpoints but it all builds quite nicely.

They depend on one another, on their Go-Betweens, and the animals that provide for them. These early hunter-gatherers are depicted as being surprisingly sophisticated, civilised, caring and thoughtful. They have their laws and their religion. Brutishness between people is a rarity and violence is permitted only to address serious crimes. But what happens when laws are broken and their Spirits are upset? The story is well-rounded, detailed, carefully constructed and absorbing.

I really enjoyed the trip into this one quite plausible construction of the distant past. Mar 09, Sharon rated it really liked it. Margaret Elphinstone has written a convincing account of what life might have been like in the Mesolithic era in Scotland. This era encompassed six thousand years of human occupation from the last Ice Age until the agricultural revolution of around BC. Not much is known of Scotland's hunter-gatherers, but Elphinstone drew parallels from Inuit, Native American and Sami traditions. Hunter-gatherer cultures share spiritual practices which show their deep relationship to their land.

The plot of the story is woven from this event as the people try to make sense of it. This was an interesting historical read. I actually did something I don't normally do and stopped reading halfway through. The story never really captivated me. Please check out all my reviews at http: I found out that the story is set in Mesolithic Scotland, not the Pacific Northwest as I would have assumed from the coastal setting. I highly suggest reading the afterword first, it will certainly enhance the story.

The char Please check out all my reviews at http: The characters of The Gathering Night are focused on hunting and gathering for survival in BCE, and as such, there is no written literature.

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Elphinstone narrates her novel with many voices, as each family member tells stories around the fire. The verbal storytelling feels very authentic to the time period, as their historical account of events changes with each new voice. My only complaint was that the voices were perhaps not distinct enough. The general outline of The Gathering Night seems plausible to me — there is no anachronistic romance or other contemporary influences.

The tsunami that sets all following events into motion is the only true historical event in the novel, but it is completely believable that this could have been a story passed down through generations, retold around the campfire at the gathering. There is no modern omniscient narrator telling us how the characters would have thought or felt, so all we have is their seemingly authentic story. The mystery of the tsunami and its influence, whether direct or subtle, is slowly built up throughout the novel, and the development of characters is advanced at a similarly plodding pace.

Part of this is due to the repetition of scenes, shown through the different perspectives of each storyteller. This device is a little tedious, yet it does illustrates how the individual voices merge into a collective voice of the community. There is a concept of agreement between hunters and animals that is not a sacrifice but a compromise between the two: I was expecting that the tsunami would have a bigger role in the novel, and I felt my interest in all of the minor conflicts dragging in the middle of the novel.

However, everything picked up as the loose ends began to tie together in an unexpected way. The concept of life continuing on after death was so important to these people living just to survive, and this is why storytelling is so important for the community.

Whether the deceased are truly reincarnated or not, they live on through their stories. The ending justified the means of telling this story, and pulled it all together. Sep 29, Erin rated it really liked it. Margaret Elphinstone knows how to tell a story.

As an example of novels set in times other than our own, and those for which little historical or archeological records exist, she does an amazing job of pulling together the knowledge that we do have in order to create a story. She weaves her extensive historical research into a tale of murder, redemption, and loss in ancient Scotland.

We are immediately engaged by her narrative, as all of the various narrators talk directly to us, the reader, as Margaret Elphinstone knows how to tell a story. We are immediately engaged by her narrative, as all of the various narrators talk directly to us, the reader, as if they are telling the story around the campfire to the younger generation.

Many stories are woven into one in this book: My fault with this story is actually the same narrative device that also makes the book interesting. I would have found more tension in a story told by Haizea alone, really exploring her journey into womanhood and her estrangement from her mother. It would have been more interesting to me if we were in deep first person POV for the entire book. It is a novel way to tell a story, though, and if it occasionally reminded me that I was reading a story instead of living it , then it also offered up some interesting bits like this: Look, you can see them in the firelight now!

I saw the snakeskin with the spearhead mark between its eyes woven into the plaited rushes down my back. Her lyrical yet sparse writing brings us directly into a time and place that we will never know, but through the voices of these characters, the stories of their clans and camps, their hunts and rituals, we feel as if we have lived then, and are no different from the people of that long ago time. It looks like a horror or suspense novel, and I would have no idea that this was historical fiction without having read a list.

Jul 17, Marlowe rated it it was amazing. One night, Bakar disappeared. His family is left alone, with only an old man to hunt for them. But then a stranger appears with a story of a great wave that killed his people, and this sets in motion a series of interweaving stories, told by the many voices of the People.

I think it might be blasphemy to say this, but I found that Elphinstone actually did a better job. But while Auel simply lists them in page after page of plant names, Elphinstone builds it right into the story. The story itself is captivating.