Hiding walls of text so the thread isn’t cluttered up.
More like a somber, somewhat depressing slice of life story, although I really don’t think that gives it justice. I suppose you could say it has tragic elements, but I wouldn’t call it a tragedy.
The book’s about Robert Burns, and works as a kind of narrative, based on a true story biography of his life. It starts with him at his farm mining at a lime quarry, then goes onto him having various conversations with his friends, family, and wife. The book is, as I said, quite depressing because of the subject and how much (and well) it goes into the extreme hardships and poverty of Burns and people around him, but it’s equally uplifting, in a kind “things may be extremely bleak and brutal, but we have each other” kind of way.
Also I’d really say that this book is more poetry than an actual novel. The characters are really well developed and story is interesting, but it really shines through in its prose.
To contrast this with the Transpotting book in terms of its use of Scots, this book is subtle, and the language feels completely natural, it really defines the characters and pulls you into the story, and again, its subtle but excellent use of Scots is where a lot of the great poetry in this book comes from. For a non-Scot this might be a bit difficult, but I found the language to be perfectly naturally. It also only uses Scots in dialogue, everything else is written in perfect English, and while not as poetic as the Scots in the book, is nonetheless written in a very interesting and engaging way. This is how you write a book with Scots.
I found Trainspotting in comparison to be completely unreadable, despite the fact that I live and was born in the era, and place where the book was written and is set in, even knowing most of the places written about in the book, visiting many regularly. The 18th Century Scots felt completely natural, reading a paragraph of 21st century Glaswegian Scots from this book felt a sludge.
The book tries to force as many Scots words and slang as possible, not just in the dialogue, but all throughout the dammed thing. While these words are technically used, and I recognise most of them, no one who I’ve ever met uses them half, or even a quarter as often as they do in this book. IRL someone might use one or two of these words or phrases in every paragraph or so, but when they’re literally every other word used, and it’s the most obtuse vernacular possible it legitimately reads like foreign language you’re only half familiar with. If your book can’t be read, and sounds like a foreign language to someone who was likely born less than a few miles from you, you know you’ve fucked up. (I would post an example, but I don’t want anyone reading the picture and accidentally mixing up the books.)
I know I kind of went off on a side rant. But one of the first things I thought of when reading this was just how beautiful and poetic it was compared to Trainspotting. Feels like an authentic comfy book written by and for Scots, about Scots, while the later feels like a cash grab amid at Americans, so they can gawk at the language in the book.
I put it down after getting a third of the way through, because again, I really think this should be read primarily as a work of poetry, so I intend to dip in and out of it. Well worth a skim through at the very least for the prose alone if you ever have the chance, not to mention the amazingly written characters.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that this may be the comfiest book I own. If I had to describe it in a word that would be it, next would be poetic. I feel like I’m not qualified enough to give the book the credit it deserves.
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